Keir Starmer has declared while the party rightly points to its record in government as proof of what Labour can achieve in power, the opposition should “more importantly” be showcasing the work done by Labour’s metro mayors.
Meeting with six of Labour’s metro mayors this morning, the Labour leader outlined what he described as the three-part journey that Labour would have to take to move on from its defeat in 2019 and win the next general election.
“The first was… You have to accept that if the electorate rejects you that badly, it’s the party that has to change, not the electorate,” Starmer told mayors Tracy Brabin, Andy Burnham, Jamie Driscoll, Dan Norris, Steve Rotheram and Oliver Coppard.
He said the second task was to “expose the government as not fit for purpose” and that the final stage involves answering the question: “If not them, then why you?” He told the meeting: “This is where your voices are so important, because that’s the bit we’re on now.”
“People often say to me, well, Keir you tell me what difference a Labour government would make. And of course, we point back to the last Labour government – and quite right to. But what we need equally, if not more importantly, are actual living examples of Labour in power, and what a difference it makes. And that’s what you have,” he added.
“We can use and should use your examples of what you’re doing to say, this is the difference it makes for Labour to be in power.”
The Labour leader highlighted that during his campaign to be party leader, he said he wanted to “close the gap” between his team and that of the mayors’. Starmer argued that the relationship between the leader of the party and the mayors should be one “where we bash out ideas together”.
“Gradually, we’re doing that. Possibly a bit slower than we should, but we are doing it. There’s a much closer working relationship,” Starmer said.
He told the meeting in Leeds that he “fundamentally” believes in devolution and said that the leadership’s “job” is not to “sit and make bad decisions somewhere in a room in London”, but to ask the metro mayors: “What levers do we make available to you so that you can make decisions within a framework that we can all agree?”
Starmer said he hoped today’s meeting would the first of many, adding: “They should be both optimistic about what we can achieve, realistic about the challenges, and challenging. I don’t mind being challenged. I don’t mind you saying to me, ‘look Keir, we need to do more of this or we need to go more in this direction’.”
Reflecting on the local election results, Starmer said: “What happened last week was a good set of results. Not good enough. But good. Because what they proved to me was that we’re making progress. We began to win in areas where we need to win back constituencies if we’re going to form the next Labour government.”
He argued that the progress the party has made “makes the next two years even more important”, adding: “Between us, we need to work through what that looks like.
“Using your examples of the difference it makes when Labour is in power, using your ideas, and welding them together for something which enables us to go on to win a general election.”