© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Westminster cathedral service marks 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain
LONDON (Reuters) – British opposition leader Keir Starmer will appeal on Tuesday to former supporters of his Labour Party to return to the fold with the message that it is now under “new leadership” and shares their patriotic values.
Labour suffered heavy losses at last year’s election, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives won over many voters in the party’s heartlands with a promise to “get Brexit done” and by tapping discontent with ex-leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Starmer, elected Labour leader in April, wants to win back so-called ‘Red Wall’ seats in northern and central England taken by the Conservatives, but also faces a tough struggle to convince voters in Scotland to return to the party.
Addressing the party’s virtual conference from the northern English town of Doncaster, Starmer will tell Labour members: “To those people in Doncaster and Deeside, in Glasgow and Grimsby, in Stoke and in Stevenage to those who have turned away from Labour, I say this: we hear you.”
“I ask you: take another look at Labour. We’re under new leadership. We love this country as you do,” the 58-year-old former chief prosecutor will say, according to excerpts from his speech.
Starmer will also set out his vision for Britain, saying a Labour government would properly fund public services, create a world-class education system, invest in skills and become “an active force for good in the world” by tackling climate change.
With an election still nearly four years away, Starmer is trying to navigate Labour’s way in winning back former supporters while holding the Conservative government to account without being seen as unnecessarily critical at a time when the country is struggling with the coronavirus pandemic.
Labour has caught up with the Conservatives for the first time since Johnson became prime minister in July last year, according to a YouGov opinion poll published last Friday that put both parties on 40%.
But the Conservatives, who have an 80-seat parliamentary majority, are hoping that, by the time of the next election, they will have recovered strongly from the current criticism of their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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