Keir Starmer heckled during Labour conference speech
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Addressing the conference hall in Brighton, the Labour leader accused Jeremy Corbyn of nearly “obliterating” the party as he set out his vision for Britain. He said: “This is our first full conference since the 2019 General Election in which we suffered our worst defeat since 1935.
“To our devoted activists and loyal voters I want to say loud and clear. You saved this party from obliteration and we will never forget it. Thank you.”
The speech is the first one he has delivered to a Labour Party conference as leader in person.
Last year’s conference had to be held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Sir Keir warned if the party was to be serious about winning the next election it would have to get serious about winning.
He accused Mr Corbyn of presenting a fanciful list of policy commitments in 2019 that turned voters off.
“My job as leader is not just to say thank you to the voters who stayed with us. It is to understand and persuade the voters who rejected us,” the Labour leader told the conference hall.
“To those Labour voters who said their grandparents would turn in their graves, that they couldn’t trust us with high office, to those who reluctantly chose the Tories because they didn’t believe our promises were credible.
“To the voters who thought we were unpatriotic or irresponsible or that we looked down on them, I say these simple but powerful words.
“We will never under my leadership go into an election with a manifesto that is not a serious plan for government.”
His speech received a mixed reception in the room.
Furious supporters on the Left of the party repeatedly sought to sabotage the speech, heckling and jeering at every turn.
“What about a £15 minimum wage,” screamed one person, after Sir Keir refused to endorse the eye-wateringly expensive policy earlier this week.
Another blamed Sir Keir for the 2019 election loss, shouting: “It was your Brexit policy.”
Giving his speech at 12pm on a Wednesday, when he would normally be jousting with Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Keir hit back at his detractors: “At this time on a Wednesday, it’s normally the Tories who are heckling me.
“Doesn’t bother me then, doesn’t bother me now.”
A small group chanted “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” as Sir Keir walked onto the stage.
Another section of the audience repeatedly held up red pieces of paper which read: “Show Starmer the red card.”
Supporters repeatedly gave their leader standing ovations to try and block out those attacking him.
Sir Keir has sought to draw a line under the years of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party as he focuses on rebuilding the trust of voters.
He has prioritised changing internal party rules during the five day meet in Brighton, claiming the current constitution meant the party was too inward-looking.
The Holborn and St Pancras MP believes the changes, which make it easier for sitting MPs to be reselected to fight in their constituencies, will mean Labour politicians can go into the next election focused on the campaign, rather than worried about being ousted by their own activists.
With the prospect of Boris Johnson calling an election in 2023 rather than waiting until 2024, Sir Keir wanted to get the changes out of the way so the next conference can focus on the fight ahead.
More to follow…
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