Starmer’s speech shows Labour has the leader of a government in waiting

Tom Collinge

What a difference year makes. After delivering an optimistic vision for green, technology led growth in Brighton last year, today Keir Stammer delivered a far darker, more passionate speech for darker, angrier times. “This party is always on the side of working people in times of crisis,” he declared, and is this a time of crises. Ukraine, Brexit, Covid, climate and most recently the self-inflicted currency crash. Britain is genuinely struggling and with both immediate issues and our long-term weaknesses. Starmer needed to show he could rise to the occasion and Labour has the team and ideas to meet the challenge.

There is policy, a lot of it, but there is also a new energy. Keir is not taking it any more. He’s still measured, he’s still sensible but his patience has run out. Labour have at times struggled to energise their argument that the Conservatives have run the country into the ground and are ideologically incapable of facing the massive problems we face. Keir found a way to bring it to life today.

He had strong lines and was blunt. “Your struggle, your hope your ambitions don’t matter” to the Tories, he said. But between the quips, Starmer is combining visionary statements and gritty detail with authenticity and aplomb. He will tell you how much cash you are going to lose this winter down to the penny and how many nurses he will hire, but knits it naturally into talk of value, integrity, equality and fairness. Many of those values and indeed the policies we heard from Keir today we have heard before, but in synthesising them he made them fresh and exciting.

And that policy agenda is massive, and radical. A state-owned energy provider. Thousands of new staff for the NHS. A target of 70% homeownership. And a wide-reaching support for net zero and the climate challenge. It’s an agenda that most wings of the party can engage with and more importantly will deliver the lower bills and higher living standards that people are crying out for.

“The next Labour government must restore our sense of a collective hope,” Starmer said and this is fundamentally correct. But he is no longer peddling a bland optimism. The force with which he delivered his speech today, as well as promise of his policy agenda, is something genuine which we can believe in.

Labour’s historic poll lead might be more down to Tory incompetence but this speech, and wider conference has felt positive and productive, and shows that the party does have the leader, the message and the mission to be seen as the government in waiting. There is nothing of the abstract visionary here, nor the dull technocrat. What we have is a politician. A politician who is impatient to get into power and knows exactly what he will do when he gets there.

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