Keir Starmer screams 'new leadership' in debut Labour conference speech as boss


When Keir Starmer was tipped as a future Labour leader even before becoming an MP in 2015, he would not have anticipated delivering his first conference speech as party chief to a handful of Labour staffers and some tech geeks.

But, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, that was how he was forced to address the party faithful and, more importantly, the wider electorate today.

On the one hand Starmer, a slightly awkward lawyer who is good company in private but struggles to convey that publicly, had an easy task: stress the fact Jeremy Corbyn has been packed off to the backbenches and party fringes by emphasising Labour is under “A NEW LEADERSHIP”, as the conference slogan declared.

On the other, he was battling to be heard on a day when fresh Covid-19 curbs were announced and public attention was, understandably, elsewhere.

He was introduced by Ruth Smeeth, a Jewish former MP who lost her seat at last year’s election meltdown.

The message? Starmer is ridding the party of anti-Semitism which dogged it under the previous leadership.

Mr Starmer spoke in front of an actual Red Wall

Standing in front of a lectern at Doncaster’s Danum Gallery, Library and Museum, Starmer’s backdrop was a Red Wall.

Coincidence? Maybe, but party apparatchiks are switched on and attuned to media perceptions, so this was unlikely to have been an accident.

The town’s Don Valley constituency was, of course, one of Labour’s highest-profile casualties last December when Boris Johnson crashed through the party’s Red Wall redoubts across the Midlands and North.

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This visual reminder of that disaster showed Starmer gets the message: we let you down, we will fight to win you back and prove we are worthy of your support.

While there was no Union Flag, the Labour leader metaphorically wrapped himself in a patriotic standard, using the word “country” 26 times, “Britain” six and “British” three.

A blunt and unsubtle deviation from four-and-a-half years of Corbynism, yes.

Jeremy Corbyn led Labour to its worst defeat since 1935

His successor spoke of patriotism and his pride in Britain

But also an essential first step in rebuilding Labour as a patriotic party proud of Britain.

Starmer’s 26-minute address was beamed from a single, fixed camera to those watching on television.

No images of adoring grassroots activists applauding every few moments.

No pictures of Starmer in profile, pausing for breath or checking his notes.

And no shots of party big beasts nodding fervently at the return to a moderate, centre-left outlook – though you suspect there were sighs of relief from those who were at the helm last time Labour was in power.

Instead, the left-of-centre, fixed-point camera was focused on the man in charge.

And he, in turn, was focused on one vision: making Labour electable once again.





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