Keir Starmer heckler abandons interview to confront protestor
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Lord Mandelson – who served in several key positions in the Cabinet of former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair – was speaking after Sir Keir delivered his speech to the party faithful. During the course of his address, he appeared to take a swipe at predecessor Jeremy Corbyn with a reference to Labour’s 2019 election defeat, which he acknowledged had been the worst since the 1930s.
The characterisation appeared to anger some party members, who waved red cards and suggested it was Labour’s Brexit policy, of which Sir Keir was the architect, that scuppered its chances.
In addition, Sir Keir faced criticism in relation to his refusal to sanction a £15-an-hour minimum wage, which prompted shadow employment secretary Andy McDonald to quit his frontbench role.
In clear reference to the hostility with which many on the Labour left still regard the former President of the Board of Trade, who is also Labour’s former Director of Communications, one person was heard to shout: “Where’s Peter Mandelson?”
Afterwards, Mr Mandelson took the opportunity to take a swipe at his critics during an interview with the Politico website on the sidelines of the event.
He said: “With every paragraph of his speech Keir sounded more and more normal and in touch with ordinary people’s lives.
“With every heckle from the fringe his critics sounded more marginal and lost. It was a great contrast.
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“I am glad they were able to use me to help advertise their crankiness.”
Responding during his speech, Sir Keir quipped: “At this time on a Wednesday it’s normally the Tories that are heckling me, it doesn’t bother me then, and it doesn’t bother me now.”
And he was greeted with applause when he challenged the hecklers.
Shouts were heard of “throw them out”, and were met with sustained supportive applause for the Labour leader.
At one point he replied: “You can chant all day,” before being applauded by the audience.
Party activist Carole Vincent, from the Leyton and Wanstead constituency in east London, said she expected to be thrown out of the party for heckling the leader – but suggested Sir Keir would not survive in post until the next conference either.
She explained: “I don’t consider it to be heckling, I consider that I stood up and spoke out because it needed to be said.
“He had ignored – and this conference has ignored – people that have been standing up and asking for him to guarantee the 15 percent rise for the NHS, a £15 minimum wage.
“You can’t live in many major cities – not just London but other cities – on the wages that people get.”
She added: “He talked about uniting the party. The party has never been so divided as it is now and it’s getting worse.
“I probably will be expelled and that’s sad because I work bloody hard for this party.”
Ms Vincent said she had been “showing him the red card when he said something that I thought is not acceptable and that he should be actually challenging the Government on, or saying how he is going to do something”.
A Labour spokesman said the heckling was not unexpected.
He added: “Obviously there was clearly a view that there could be those who would want to express an opinion in the speech.
“Ultimately it didn’t distract from the message that Keir wanted to get across.
“He delivered the speech in the positive, optimistic, confident tone that I said yesterday was what he would be doing and that’s what he did today.”
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