LONDON: Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has told the Party to “get serious about winning” in his first conference speech as leader. He attacked Boris Johnson’s “serial incompetence” and said he was “just not up to the job” of being PM. But he said Labour had work to do win back voters’ trust – and had deserved to lose the 2019 general election.
In an online broadcast, he set out his vision for the UK and urged voters to “take another look at Labour”, adding: “We are under new leadership.” And he assured voters who deserted the party in droves in some of its traditional heartlands: “We love this country as you do.”
The speech was delivered to a near-empty room, in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, because of social distancing restrictions, and was greeted with silence instead of the usual applause and ovations.
He criticised the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and said the crisis had revealed Boris Johnson as being “just not serious” and “not up to the job”.
“It makes me angry that, just when the country needs leadership, we get serial incompetence,” said the Labour leader.
But he said Labour had to be “brutally honest” with itself about why had it had lost four general elections in a row.
“When you lose an election in a democracy you deserve to. You don’t look at the electorate and ask them: ‘what were you thinking?’,” he told the party.
He said Labour was “becoming a competent, credible Opposition but that’s not enough”. And he vowed that “never again will Labour go into an election not being trusted on national security, with your job, with your community and with your money. That’s what being under new leadership means.”
Labour’s four-day online event replaced the party’s traditional party conference due to be held in Liverpool, which was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In his speech, Sir Keir said the policies on which Labour will fight the next election in 2024 “won’t sound like anything you’ve heard before. It will sound like the future arriving,” he said of the party’s next manifesto.
On Brexit, Sir Keir, who campaigned for a second referendum, declared that Labour would not be a party “that keeps banging on about Europe”. “Let me absolutely clear,” he said, “the debate between Leave and Remain is over.”
He called on the prime minister to secure a trade deal with the EU, and said he would be “failing Britain” if he failed to achieve one.