Politics

Labour can’t run away from the mainstream says Starmer

Scottish votes have never carried more weight in a General Election, Sir Keir Starmer told delegates at the Scottish Labour conference in Glasgow on Saturday. 

In what was his first address to the party faithful in Scotland, he hit out at the SNP, Boris Johnson and the Conservatives, and sought to put some distance between his leadership and that of predecessor Jeremy Corbyn.

“Running away from the mainstream is running away from voters,” he told delegates.

Starmer criticised the Prime Minister and the Downing Street partygate row for taking trust in politics to “an all-time low.”

“Two-thirds of the public think that the way British politicians act undermines democracy. Six out of ten people think politicians are likely to lie to them,” Starmer said.

“That’s inevitable when we have a government that is misleading the public and covering up their own wrongdoing to save the Prime Minister’s job. It is also deliberate.

“This Tory government is so disreputable that even the Scottish Tories are actually embarrassed by it. It is a government that wallows in cynicism.

“It wants the public to believe that politics is no longer a force for good. And, of course, they don’t care about the consequences of their actions, including the consequences for the Union.” 

He said that Johnson and his party “pose as patriotic defenders of the Union.” 

“But, every day that he remains in power, he weakens it. He breaks everything he touches and he won’t change. 

“Even the Scottish Tories know it – weakening the bonds between people, weakening the promises of one generation to the next, weakening the legitimacy of the office he holds.

“Left to their downward spiral, the Tories would destroy everything that they profess to hold dear.”

To sustained applause from the 500 delegates in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall, Starmer said he was “angry” that Labour had “allowed these Tories to beat us.”

“This is on all of us to fix and we can fix it. It is our duty to win. I believe we can. But still, our greatest hurdle might not be the Tories, but ourselves. 

“There is no rule in politics that disillusionment with the Tories delivers a Labour government. 

“Labour wins, as it always has done when we have the ideas, the optimism, and the trust of the British people. So we need to be honest with ourselves – trust in us declined too.”

He said the party was seen as being removed from the lives of working people.

“We put our priorities above theirs; our ideas as more important, than their experiences. So yes, our duty to win does mean keeping our discipline.

“Never losing sight of who it is that we need to convince – working people and especially those who voted for electoral opponents.

“We can win and we can make change or we can pursue apparent political purity inside this party. But please make no mistake, we cannot do both. Running away from the mainstream is running away from voters.”

Starmer also promised that Gordon Brown’s Commission on the UK’s Future – due to report in the summer – would create “a new blueprint for a new Britain, that the next Labour Government – my government- will build.” 

He added: “It will be a new Britain which puts security, prosperity and respect, at the heart of our politics again.“

“Let me be clear, that means respect for Scotland within our union. That’s why Gordon’s commission is so important because it is examining how to reform the UK. Not just to acknowledge or accommodate devolution, but to give it proper respect and unleash the true power of the idea.

“Not the devolution of grievance, or one-upmanship. But the vision of devolution that Anas is talking about and that our Mayors in England are also talking about – pushing power away from parliaments and towards people – and towards great cities like Glasgow, which is being let down so badly by the SNP.”

The SNP was, he added, joined at the hip with the Tories, and neither party had an “industrial strategy to meet the challenge of our age” or had enough to “secure the jobs and industries of the future.”

“The so-called party of British business is barely able to talk to business. Whilst the party of North Sea nationalism is now selling Scotland’s offshore wind to every foreign energy interest imaginable.”

“Scottish votes have never carried more weight in a General Election. Those who pretend that Scotland can’t choose the government it gets are wrong,” he added.

Responding to Starmer’s speech, a spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “Labour have lost votes in every Holyrood election, falling to their worst ever result last year. 

“They now prefer to help the nationalists than work with pro-UK parties. Labour are even in coalitions with the SNP in six councils across Scotland.

“No matter how much they try to gain support by appealing to nationalist voters, the Labour party is now a mere shadow of what it used to be.”

 

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