Recap: Watch Keir Starmer’s speech today and read key points and reaction

Tom Belger
Keir Starmer. Photo: Labour
Keir Starmer. Photo: Labour

Labour leader Keir Starmer made his first speech of the new year near Bristol this morning, setting out his stall exactly one year after prime minister Rishi Sunak unveiled his ‘five pledges’.

You can rewatch it in full and read our highlights from the speech below as they unfolded in real time (and read the full transcript here), but a few key points and lines included:

  • Starmer made an appeal to those tempted to stay at home, saying voters are “right to be anti-Westminster and angry about what politics has become”, but warning change is possible “only if people vote for it”.
  • Starmer wants to see lower taxes on working people “on principle” – but growth is key. “We can argue about tax and spend all day long. If we don’t grow the economy, that is an ever-reducing discussion that we’re having.”
  • Starmer effectively admitted Labour may never hit its £28bn-a-year green plans. “If the fiscal rules don’t allow it, Labour will borrow less.”
  • There were tough questions from the media on whether he was recklessly fuelling “anti-Westminster” sentiment, the risk he looks too ‘cautious’ to voters and why he won’t outline more on Labour’s tax plans.
  • Labour is not just ready to fight the election on the economy, but wants to to “close the book on trickle-down nonsense once and for all”, Starmer said.
  • The Tories have a strategy to “attempt to take the change option off the table altogether”; and seek to “salt the earth” for Labour, whereas Labour will offer “credible hope”.

Here is the livestream to rewatch via YouTube, and read on below for live minute-by-minute updates on key highlights and then reaction as it unfolded:

11.48am: Read the full speech transcript back and let us know what you think…

Here’s a link to the speech in full – email us your take at [email protected], saying whether you’re happy to be named or not in anything we write on it… That’s it from us on this live-blog; thanks for following.

11.35am: What did pundits think?

Lewis Goodall of The News Agents says that Starmer’s promise of a “politics which treads a little lighter on all our lives”, rather than the “exhausting” politics of populism, was “really interesting”.

The Independent‘s John Rentoul writes that “after yards of tedious cliche, Starmer stumbles on what looks like an interesting argument, promising ‘a politics that treads a little lighter on our lives'”.

Rentoul also notes Starmer was “finally” explicit about potentially borrowing less than the £28bn for green investment, and focusing on clean energy by 2030 as a priority.

Starmer took questions from 12 journalists, no less, Rentoul also pointed out, perhaps a “deliberate contrast” with Sunak who sometimes takes far fewer.

Yet Charlie Cooper of Politico says that “crucially” Starmer did actually use and recommit to the the £28bn figure, albeit subject to fiscal rules.

His colleague Eleni Courea says she thinks Starmer struggled with a question about Peter Mandelson and Jeffrey Epstein, saying he did not know any more than the journalist.

The Times’ sketchwriter Tom Peck notes Starmer’s repeated focus on growth, and says: “It will be fascinating to see where in Downing Street he reckons this magic growth lever is, and why no one else has ever tried pulling on it.”

11.20am: Protests outside over Palestine


11.10am: Idea Keir avoiding TV debates ‘nonsense’

11.05am: Labour may borrow less for green plans

In some of the most notable comments today, Starmer says that ”

or its “borrow-to-invest” green plans – as the plan to ramp up investment to £28bn a year is subject to those fiscal rules.

That means attacks on the spending are “utterly misconceived”, he adds.

“There is no question of pushing back on the mission” of clean power by 2030, he says in response to another question about whether there’ll be more green plan rowbacks.

Labour will “look very carefully” at the investment that’s needed, aiming to trigger private investment at a ratio of 1:3.

Delaying the £28bn a year pledge “doesn’t mean there’s nothing before that”, but it’s “just sensible” looking at the changes in the cost of borrowing as well as the practicalities of delivering its pledges. Planning reform would be needed to “get the ball rolling”, he added.

11.01am: Was Cruddas right?

Another media question is on an apparent lack of clarity about what Starmer stands for recent comments by Labour MP Jon Cruddas, who claimed Starmer lacks a “clear sense of purpose”.

Starmer says he has set out more detail than any opposition leader about his five missions, which he reiterates again.

10.55am: What does Labour plan on tax?

Starmer is asked by a reporter what Labour plans on national insurance thresholds given the Tories’ plans.

He says Labour does want people to have “more money in their pocket”, but the “first lever” for that is growth.

Labour has been “clear” what it’ll do on tax via taxing private schools and non-doms. Crucially he says that “any tax cuts have to be fair and affordable”,  which is far from ruling them out and likely to fuel further speculation.

“The idea the Tories can lecture anybody about tax cuts or tax rises is now ludicrous.”

Starmer says later on that growth is key, but it’s “not to say” there won’t be changes on tax. We’ve got “at least another fiscal event” before the election. “On principle” he wants to see lower taxes on working people.

Asked later if the overall tax burden won’t rise under Labour and there’ll be no new taxes, he says Labour “has” set out where it will hike taxes like on private schools and non-doms.

If Labour does hike taxes it will set it out “well in advance of an election” and what it will be used for. Any tax adjustment for working people has to be “fair and affordable”.

“We can argue about tax and spend all day long. If we don’t grow the economy, that is an ever-reducing discussion that we’re having….all four missions ladder up to growing the economy.”

10.52am: Sky News asks if Starmer looks too ‘timid’

Beth Winter of Sky News notes Labour want to “energise” voters, but don’t plan to invest in public services, do plan to “ape” Tory tax plans and “seem to be ditching” green investment plans.

“Isn’t there a danger voters will see you not as a leader of change, but one who is overly cautious and timid and who turns them off?”

Starmer says the change Labour offers is “not just words”, but includes five national missions which are “really ambitious” including the highest growth in the G7, clean power, lower bills, energy security, making the NHS “fit for the future” and halving violence against women and girls. “Nobody says to me that’s no different…there’s a huge, clear distinction here”.

10.50am: Fuelling anti-Westminster sentiment, Keir?

Tough question from Chris Mason at the BBC, who questions Starmer’s decision to say voters are “right to be anti-Westminster”. He asks if it is “cheap” and “irresponsible” to talk down the institutions he wishes to lead, particularly as Starmer accuses the Tories of being “cynical”.

Starmer of course denies this. He says the Tories don’t believe what they are saying, “that’s the cynicism I’m pointing towards”.

The choice is decline or national renewal, he adds, saying everyone thinks the country’s in decline.

10.46am: Don’t listen to those who say politicians is all the same – the choice is ‘hope or cynicism’

He says voters shouldn’t listen when “they say we’re all the same” or politics can’t deliver change, because “it does”.

Voters who can’t now get affordable homes, jobs with regular hours, or fair pay, but who can with Labour, should see that as something “worth fighting for”.

“Only Labour will make a difference” on a wide range of policy areas and the public “have the power to vote for it”.

The choice is “hope or cynicism”, “continued decline with the Tories or national renewal with Labour”.

This year is voters’ “only chance” to secure change, he adds.

“Why Labour?” he asks – with growing energy as the speech nears its close. Labour will “grow every corner of our country” and take back our streets, switch on GB energy, get the NHS on its feet, tear down barriers to opportunity and get Britain building, he says.

10.42am: Politics should ‘tread lighter on our lives’ but voters must moderate their wishes

Starmer promises a politics that “treads a little lighter on all of our lives”, rather than what politics “fuelled by division” does – exhaustingly demanding your full attention and focused on this week’s “common enemy”.

Politics should be about national unity for the common good, which is harder to express, less colourful, gets “fewer clicks on social media”. Notably he says  in some ways it is “more demanding of you” as it asks voters to moderate their political wishes “out of respect for the different wishes of others”.

“45 million voters can’t get everything they want. That’s democracy,” he says in an unusually blunt message to voters.

“The character of politics will change, and with it the national mood. A collective breathing out, a burden lifted, and then the space for a more hopeful look forward….it’s only this kind of politics…that can offer real change. The energy needed for a divisive politics is a distraction”, he adds, highlighting the politics of the SNP, the Tories and Northern Ireland.

10.32am: Labour wants to fight on the economy and ‘trickle-down nonsense’

Starmer says a Labour government means a “new mindset”, “mission government” with an understanding “our job is to tackle tomorrow’s challenges today”.

He says Labour makes a “deeper argument about who growth should serve, where it comes from, who it comes from” and adds that the Labour answer is – “working people, communities casually ignored and disregarded, passed over as sources of economic dynamism”. Labour would transform the labour market with stronger workers’ rights, he adds later.

He says people are instead subjected to the Tory argument that growth comes from “driving down their wages and security while arguing they should be grateful” for things handed down from top.

He says: “I’ve read the Tories want to fight election on this terrain”. But they are the “so-called party of business which now hates business”, which boasts about tax cuts while raising taxes higher than at any time since the war, and the “party of ‘sound finance’ but that crashed the economy”.

And he adds:  “We don’t just expect an election on the economy, we want an election on the economy and we’re ready for that fight, ready to close the book on trickle-down nonsensse once and for all.”

And he promises a “total crackdown on cronyism”, adding that he had put expense-cheating MPs “in jail” of both parties. “Nobody will be above the law in a Britain that I lead”.

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MISSION GOVERNMENT / NEW MINDSET / core of all we do – understnading our job to tackle tomorrow challenges today.

10.25am: Labour will reward working people’s efforts fairly

Starmer is reeling off current Labour policy pledges now, as part of Labour’s effort to be “reconnected to an old partnership” between Labour and working people” and not just a “party of protest”.

He will “tilt the economy” to “reward” the efforts fairly of working people, he adds.

His plans will see higher growth, a reformed planning system to facilitate the infrastructure we need, safer streets, cheaper bills via GB energy, opportunities for children, technical colleges, better mental health in schools,  expert teachers and the NHS “back on its feet” with two million more appointments every year seven days a week, “clearing the backlog”.

10.23am: Tories want to “take the change option off the table”

He warns there is a sense some people have that all politicians are in it for themselves after so many varied scandals.

The Tories have a strategy to “attempt to take the change option off the table altogether”; and seek to “salt the earth” for Labour.

I say to every voter, Starmer says, “Britain must come together, and that means we will need you”.

10.22am: ‘Project hope’, but a ‘credible hope’

Starmer says he is aiming not just to defeat the Tories, but to change a deeper “mindset” and way of doing politics.

The Tories will “leave no stone unturned” in exploiting opportunities for division politically, and Labour will warn voters the Tories will be “even more entitled” and “complacent” this year that votes can be taken for granted.

We must “crush their politics of divide and decline with a new project hope”.

This is not a “grandiose utopian hope” or miracle cures which voters have “had their fill of”, but a “credible hope”, a “frank hope” about the hard road ahead – but which shows “light at the end of the tunnel” through Labour’s missions, which are “unapologetically ambitious”.

10.20am: Right to be anti-Westminster

Starmer says voters are “right to be anti-Westminster”, but urges them to “hold on to the flickering hope in your heart that things can be better”.

10.17am: Politics is not a ‘game’ or a ‘sermon’

Starmer says politics is not a “game”, a “pastime” for those who like the feeling of power, but instead a “higher calling” and the “hope and change of renewal married to the responsibility of service – that’s what I believe in”.

Politics is also not a “sermon from on high”, a “self-regarding lecture”, “vanity dressed as virtue”, he says in what’s been written up inevitably as an attack on former leader Jeremy Corbyn.

10.14am: ‘I’m ready’ for an election

Starmer is up, talking about an election whether it comes in the spring or autumn. “I’m ready for it….it’s what we’ve been preparing for.”

He says this is “the moment when power is taken out of Tory hands and given not to me but to you; that moment is getting closer by the second”.

He says opposition has been a “long hard slog”, and he has “hated the futility of opposition”, the sense of “powerlessness and yes, pain” watching the Tories “drive the country into the rocks of decline”.

10.05am: PPC introduces Starmer in Bristol seat

Keir Starmer is being introduced by Claire Hazelgrove, Labour parliamentary candidate for the Filton & Bradley Stoke constituency just north of Bristol.

It is the third time Starmer has visited this aircraft factory, apparently. The Tory MP Jack Lopresti holds the seat with a majority of 5,646.

She says his career has been “built on serving others”, and that Labour will offer a “fresh start”.

Hazelgrove, who said she is from a family of teachers, NHS workers and RAF personnel, asked if people could have imagined a few years ago that Labour would be “positioned as a government in waiting”.

She reiterated recent Starmer messaging about the party having “fundamentally changed”, focusing on “service” and being back serving the interests of working people. She added that “if we don’t vote for change, it won’t happen” – a message Starmer is expected to give too.


9.19am: ‘Tilt Britain back towards the interests of working people’

Keir Starmer tweeted this message shortly before his speech: “I didn’t come into politics to watch the Tories drive the country I love into the rocks of decline.

“I want to tilt Britain back towards the interests of working people. So this year, I ask you to believe in our future again and vote Labour, to change the course of our country.”




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