Labour party conference speech: the run down

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In a conference speech with heckling, Keir Starmer officially re-introduced himself as a capable and invigorating leader, breathing a new lease of life into what has been an embattled and at times embittered Labour party. This was his maiden appearance in front of the party faithful and it provided an opportunity for him to finally sell himself and what his new brand of so called ‘Starmerism’ represents. The key issues on the agenda were Labour’s take on ‘levelling up’ and how the Conservatives have seemingly neglected this. Another talking point was the issue of Climate change and the scathing attack launched by Starmer on the Tories’ regressive approach to the matter.

The events of the five day conference were marred with controversy; Angela Rayner referred to the Tory party as ‘scum’, Starmer altered the leadership rules in the party which angered the trade unions and, more significantly, shadow employment minister Andy McDonald (a strong Corbynite) resigned, citing Keir Starmer’s opposition to the newly proposed hourly minimum wage of £15.

What is arguably Starmer’s greatest challenge, is attempting to liberalise a party that has fragmented into differing ideological outlooks. The void that was left by Jeremy Corbyn has created a frustratingly difficult situation whereby the far-left feel it necessary that their voices be heard. This proved evident when, on multiple occasions in the conference, heckling and shouting was projected towards the opposition leader, with some holding up red cards as if to say ‘send him off’. However, this did little to curtail the momentum of the speech, and Starmer even had a comic response; ‘normally on a Wednesday it’s the Tories that are heckling me, it doesn’t bother me’. Perhaps this is a sign that Labour have closed the door on Corbynism.

Early on his speech, he discussed about his upbringing and how the role of his parents helped install values such as acknowledging the ‘dignity of work’ and the ‘nobility of care’. In addition, he touched upon how he worked his way to become the head of the crown prosecution service and how he is isn’t a career politician; he has the insights into what it’s like to work with various different people in society. This is type of thing that Starmer is trying to reinstall into the party; an attempt to make Labour the working man’s party once again, and drive it away from the ‘woke, liberal elite’. He clearly advocates for traditional Labour values, which is his bid to be more relatable to typical working class voters. Keir Starmer has made it obvious that he believes he can win an election, and he is prepared to do this through effective policy making.

Former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson once said;

‘the Labour party is either a moral crusade or it’s nothing’

Starmer will try to emulate this by providing a strong healthcare plan for the NHS. This includes the creation of 8500 extra mental health professionals as well mental health support in all schools. He also mentioned how under a Labour government, he would fast track all rape and murder cases as well as reforming the inspection Body Ofsted to help improve struggling schools. Long term, he focused on climate change and offered up a rather audacious figure of £28 billion a year for the next decade in trying to combat this issue. Echoing Harold Wilson, Labour will continue to fight for their most important values; strong work ethic and the maintenance of the welfare state.

To summarise, Keir Starmer has officially put Labour on the map as a serious contender for the next general election. What he’s offering is a traditional array of socialist policies which could potentially appeal to all Labour voters. However, the internal conflict that Starmer has caused within his party hasn’t helped his cause; the far-left are thoroughly opposed to him, the moderates view him as a ‘caretaker’ leader. The one criticism that Keir Starmer receives is his lack of a clear, ideological standpoint. How can he claw back old voters who defected to the Tories in 2019? How should he go about governing the party with the recent change of leadership rules. But most importantly of all; how can he unite the increasingly divided factions of the Labour party and find a common ground?

Boris Johnson’s approval rating has fallen to 22% according to a recent YouGov poll. Is there now an opportunity for Starmer to pounce on the Tory incompetence. Sir Keir’s serious approach could see off Johnson’s goofy, laid back style which, come 2024 could prove to be the difference between swing voters. We have seen an increase in popularity for left-centrist parties in two powerhouses of the Western world; Germany and America. Will this be the spark that ignites Labour’s resurgence from the wilderness?