Below is the full text of the speech delivered by Labour leader Keir Starmer as he launched his party’s national campaign for the elections in May.
Thank you so much Angela for that introduction. I want to start by expressing my deepest sympathies to Sarah Everard’s family and friends, who will be experiencing unspeakable grief this morning. This awful news has shaken us all. I’d like to say these incidents are rare, but the truth is that violence against women and girls is far too common. No woman should walk home with fear or threat. And we have to be clear: it’s only by recognising the scale of violence, intimidation and misogyny that women and girls suffer on a daily basis that we can ever start to confront this.
Let me now turn to the upcoming elections. After 11 months behind a camera lens and behind a Zoom screen, I can’t tell you how pleased I am finally to be launching this campaign! To have the opportunity to get out across the country and to make our case for a better future under Labour. I want to thank our great deputy leader, Angela Rayner, and all our brilliant speakers this morning. From Tracy Brabin – who will be an amazing mayor for West Yorkshire – from Sadiq, Mark, Anas, Simon, David and Kim.
This is just a glimpse of the Labour team that you’ll be hearing a more lot from in the weeks to come. And despite the frustration of not being able to get out around the country in the last few months, I’m proud to have worked with our great Labour mayors, councillors and candidates. I’ve seen the difference Labour makes in power. In the way Mark Drakeford’s team led Wales through the pandemic. The way that Andy Burnham, Steve Rotherham, Sadiq Khan, Dan Jarvis and Jamie Driscoll stood up for their local communities. And how our amazing Labour councils and councillors have gone above and beyond.
Whether that’s councils like Bradford who pioneered local contact tracing, Knowsley, Newcastle and many others who secured protective equipment for our frontline. And we’ll never forget the Labour councils across the country, from Durham to Plymouth, who stepped up when the Conservatives refused to provide free school meals. I want to thank all of you – for everything you’ve done to make a very real difference.
This has been a year like none other. When I look back, I think of our NHS staff who’ve worked under the most unimaginable pressure day in, day out. I think about our care workers who have brought hope and compassion to the most vulnerable. How our local communities have come together: a knock on the door, delivering food and medicines, keeping each other safe. I think of our businesses, who’ve gone to lengths they never thought possible just to keep their heads above water. And I think about the families who haven’t been able to see each other, or hug their loved ones for almost a year.
But I also think of the missed opportunities and mistakes the Conservatives made. Because we mustn’t let the extraordinary achievement of the NHS in rolling out the vaccine blind us to what happened before. The Conservatives were too slow to lockdown. Too slow to protect care homes. Too slow to get protective equipment to the frontline. And too stubborn to sack Dominic Cummings when he broke the rules. A decade of Conservative government left Britain unprepared going into the pandemic. And they’ve now they’ve left us with the highest death toll in Europe – and the worst economic crisis of any major economy.
After everything we’ve been through, we can’t go back to business as usual. We have to build a better future. A more secure economy that works for everyone. And a more prosperous and outward looking country. That’s why these elections are so important. Because they’re about how Britain recovers, how our communities and public services are run and how we reward our frontline. There’s a simple choice ahead of us: to change; or to go back to more of the same.
There’s one thing we know about the Conservatives: don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do. A pay cut for nurses – and tax rises for families. Nothing for social care. No plan to cut NHS waiting lists. And no idea how to tackle the single biggest threat Britain faces: the climate emergency. Their masks are slipping, and we’re seeing the real face of this Conservative Party: out of touch, and out of ideas. A party that gives a 40% pay rise to Dominic Cummings, but a pay cut for our nurses. A party that gives billions to Serco, but nothing to our NHS. A party that spent a decade weakening the foundations – and now has no answers for the future.
Under my leadership, and with our great candidates across the country, Labour offers a very different route to recovery. Labour is changing. And our priorities are your priorities: securing the economy; protecting the NHS; rebuilding Britain. In these elections: A vote for Labour is a vote to support our nurses. Our doctors. Our NHS staff. And to reward our key workers. My mum was a nurse. My sister was a nurse. My wife works for the NHS. I know what it means to work in the NHS. When I clapped for our carers, I meant it.
The Prime Minister clapped for carers, then he slammed the door on them. Every vote in this election is a chance to show the Conservatives that the British people value our NHS and our key workers so much more than this government does. It’s also the chance to show that we can’t wait any longer for the Conservatives to fix social care. For ten years they’ve been promising to fix this and for ten years they’ve failed. That’s why it’s so unforgivable that our care homes were left unprotected during this pandemic. We simply can’t let them make the same mistakes again.
This election is also a chance to vote against the Conservatives’ tax rises on families – which will take money out of people’s pockets at the worst possible time. The Conservatives fought the last election with a tax guarantee: the only guarantee now is that families will pay more tax. And it’s a chance to say that after a decade of Conservative mistakes, we need a build a better future. To rebuild the foundations of our economy. To tackle the regional imbalance and unfairness that’s holding so many people back. To breathe new life into our towns and our high streets. To make sure our children can seize the opportunities of the future. And to back British businesses to create the jobs of the future.
It’s also a chance to build safer communities. I was director of public prosecutions for five years. That meant working with the police across the country day in, day out. So I know first-hand that it’s only by tackling the causes of crime that we can have safer neighbourhoods and fewer victims. Labour’s police and crime commissioners will have one central focus: the safety of all our local communities. That’s what will make a real difference.
These elections are also a chance to unite our country. After everything we’ve been through, the last thing we need now is more division. Yet in Scotland, the SNP are fighting among themselves rather than fighting for the Scottish people. Their 13 years in power has seen child poverty rise and educational standards fall. Scotland now has the lowest life expectancy in Western Europe and the highest number of drug deaths. That’s a record of shame. And what’s the SNP’s priority? Another divisive referendum. Under our brilliant new leader – Anas Sarwar – Labour will focus on what unites Scotland, not what divides us. A Covid recovery plan to protect our NHS. A catch-up programme to tackle the SNP’s appalling failure on education. A jobs programme to get Scotland back to work and to build the economy of the future. That’s what Labour offers in Scotland: social justice in a modern United Kingdom.
In Wales, it’s been Mark Drakeford’s Labour government that’s taken the tough decisions that were needed, and that now has a plan to take Wales forward. Mark’s shown the leadership that’s been sorely lacking from Boris Johnson. And he’s shown the difference that Labour can make in power. This election is the chance to give Welsh Labour the tools to finish the job and to deliver a recovery that puts jobs and the NHS first.
Since Angela and I were elected 11 months ago, Labour has changed. We’re reconnecting with the British people – in every region and every nation of the United Kingdom. We’re working hard to rebuild trust. We know there’s a long way to go but I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved. Whether that’s rooting out antisemitism in our party. Or rebuilding our relationship with British business. This is a different Labour Party. Under new leadership. And we’re making a different offer to the British people.
Above all, these elections are our chance for Labour to give something back. To offer the British people a better, more secure future for this country. To reward those who’ve given so much in the last year. And to put Labour values into action. There’s 57 days to election day. Let’s make every day count. Let’s get out there. Let’s fight for every vote. And let’s bring about the change we so desperately need. Thank you.