Keir Starmer has vowed to “sweat blood over months and years” to earn “respect” from voters, after he met with former Labour supporters in the North West of England and talked to them about his policies for young people and the economy.
Kicking off his series of summer events across the country with a two-day visit to Blackpool, the Labour leader presented three ideas to voters: a jobs guarantee for under 25s, a recovery fund for children’s education and a ‘buy British’ plan.
According to the BBC, some in the audience said he was “wasting his time”, while others welcomed the idea of more catch-up support for children who had lost out on vital learning time due to disruption during the pandemic.
In a BBC interview after the conversation with members of the public on Thursday, Starmer said: “I’ll tell you what I was struck by tonight. People were listening to the arguments I was making. They didn’t have views on them.
“But they were giving me the chance to set out what I was saying they’re engaging in that. And I got the sense that there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Laura Kuenssberg asked Starmer whether he could say Jeremy Corbyn would never return to the Parliamentary Labour Party. He replied: “Well, Laura, that is, as you very well know, a matter that’s being dealt with by the chief whip.”
Pressed further, he said: “I’m here to talk to people in Blackpool about the ideas about how we change coming out of this pandemic. We can’t just and it’s wrong, just to reduce this to an ongoing debate about Jeremy Corbyn.
“Yes, he was mentioned tonight. But in the, I don’t know, hour an a half that we spent, we must have spent 90-95% of our time on the issues, whether it’s children, what do we do about children coming out of this pandemic?
“Whether it’s under 25s, whether it’s whether manufacturing is doing well or not. But it’s not fair to portray that hour and a half as an argument all about Jeremy Corbyn. That is just not, that is not a fair portrayal of what’s just happened.”
Asked in the BBC interview about Corbyn again, Starmer said: “There’s a process in place which is being governed by the chief whip, as you well know. And that’s been obvious and straightforward.
“But really, to turn this into an argument about Jeremy Corbyn is to do exactly what I want the Labour Party to stop doing. We have been looking internally. We need to turn ourselves inside out, and be talking to and engaging with voters.”
He added: “I could see tonight what people wanted to know was: ‘That sounds good. It sounds like what I want to hear. But can you earn my trust over the next few months and years into the next general election in order to make me vote for you?’ And that is what I will do. I will sweat blood over those months and years to earn that respect.”
On whether the job was turning out to be harder than he expected, Starmer said: “No.” The BBC then asked what he thought was the most important thing he had heard on Thursday.
He replied: “Trust, and that trust has to be earned. And what I heard tonight was people weren’t saying ‘I’ll never trust you’. What I heard them saying is ‘I have lost trust in Labour, but I might, I might have trust in the future but it’s down to you to earn it’. And that I will do, you know, sweating blood over the next days, weeks, months and years into next general election.
He added: “It’s exactly what I expected. This was always going to be a tough gig. But actually, I’d much rather the sort of robust discussion I had tonight than the warm bath of simply talking to people who already agree with me.”
Boris Johnson delivered a speech on Thursday that was criticised for its lack of policies. “It’s all soundbite and no substance, which is absolutely typical of this Prime Minister. He’s given a speech on levelling up which has got nothing in it,” Starmer said.
“We’ve been here before. We had the ‘Northern Powerhouse’. We had ‘burning injustices’. Now we have got ‘levelling up’. Nothing behind it. This government is 11 years in. They need to judged on their record.”