- Keir Starmer has said the UK’s Labour party can steer the country back on course.
- He accused the Conservative leadership of being embroiled in several crises, to the detriment of the country.
- The UK is battling with inflation and an imminent recession.
Labour leader Keir Starmer Tuesday accused the ruling Conservatives of presiding over “endless” crises as he vowed to steer Britain back to long-term prosperity after recent tumult on financial markets.
Noting soaring inflation, imminent recession and a weakening currency, he told the main opposition party’s annual conference that the Tories under new Prime Minister Liz Truss had “lost control of the British economy”.
A Labour government would instead create a publicly owned company to propel a revolution in renewable power – “Great British Energy” – and invest long term in healthcare, education and policing, Starmer said.
The speech, a rare moment for an opposition leader to dominate Britain’s airwaves, was met with standing ovations and fervent applause from the upbeat Labour rank-and-file.
They can scent power after 12 years in the political wilderness and bouts of ideological infighting – especially now, after Truss and her finance minister Kwasi Kwarteng unnerved markets with a new budget plan.
The pound slumped against the dollar after the plan was unveiled on Friday to slash taxes – including for the highest earners — and raise government borrowing, in a bid to kick-start anaemic economic growth.
“Higher interest rates. Higher inflation. Higher borrowing. And for what?” Starmer queried. “For tax cuts for the richest one percent.
“Don’t forget, don’t forgive,” he said. “The only way to stop this is with a Labour government.”
Starmer promised that if elected, his party would “get us out of this endless cycle of crisis” with a “fresh start, a new set of priorities and a new way of governing”.
“I think that was the future prime minister talking to us there,” said Mo Malik, 44, a Labour activist attending the conference in Liverpool, northwest England.
“I think we’re ready (for power),” he told AFP.
Starmer’s speech came as a new poll gave Labour its biggest lead in two decades over Truss’s Conservatives.
The YouGov survey showed the party 17 points ahead of the Tories, its biggest lead since 2001 and the electorally successful Tony Blair era.
Another YouGov poll found 57 percent of Britons think the budget measures collectively were unfair — the worst score for any financial statement since the Conservatives took power from Labour in 2010.
But the confident mood in Liverpool was punctured somewhat after it emerged MP Rupa Huq had been suspended after describing Kwarteng as “superficially” black at a fringe conference event.
After senior Labour figures condemned the remark, Huq tweeted that she had contacted Kwarteng “to offer my sincere and heartfelt apologies”.
Starmer, 60, took over the leadership in April 2020 from the left-wing Jeremy Corbyn and has gradually revived Labour’s fortunes following his predecessor’s divisive five-year tenure.
In his speech, Starmer said it was now “the party of the centre ground” and of “sound money” as he took the attack to Truss, who only succeeded the scandal-plagued Boris Johnson this month.
He also earned sustained applause for declaring a Labour government would maintain Britain’s staunch support for Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.
Starmer appears unabashed in trying to grab the mantle of patriotism as well as economic competence from the Tories.
In an unusual move, attendees at this year’s conference sang the national anthem “God Save the King”, beneath images of the late queen Elizabeth II.
Fears the rendition would be marred by heckles from the Corbyn-leaning left proved unfounded.
Starmer has vowed not to reverse the Conservatives’ “hard Brexit” deal, which took Britain out of the European Union’s single market and customs union.
That has frustrated some in the party, and there is also disquiet from its traditional union backers about support for workers on strike over pay as inflation surges.
But overall, according to University of Exeter lecturer Richard Jobson, Starmer has shifted the electorate’s view of his party.
Traditional views of Labour as profligate and the Tories as fiscally responsible “no longer feel either coherent or convincing”, said Jobson, a historian who specialises in the opposition party.
“Starmer knows this and the current polling suggests that he is in a good position to capitalise on the collapse of these narratives electorally.”