Politics

Sir Keir Starmer sets out vow of ‘straight leadership’ in keynote speech

In a keynote speech in Birmingham, the Labour leader set out a “pledge of straight leadership” for the country based on three guiding principles: security, prosperity and respect.

Sir Keir said the three terms would provide the basis of any future Labour Government and would be underpinned by a “binding commitment about decency and standards in public life” – a clear reference to allegations about Mr Johnson’s own conduct.

“I’m afraid at the moment we are going backwards,” Sir Keir said. “We have a Prime Minister who thinks the rules apply to anyone but him. Just when trust in government has become a matter of life and death, for the Prime Minister it has become a matter of what he can get away with.

“Let’s be clear – it’s the party that is the problem. This is not just about the flaws of one individual. It’s about the flaws of a whole style of government.”

Labour have taken a clear lead in the polls over the past month as Mr Johnson has fought claims over Westminster sleaze, lockdown busting parties and new questions over the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.

But Sir Keir has been accused of failing to provide a clear, alternative vision for how he would run the country.

Tuesday’s speech was an attempt to address those criticisms and to portray himself as a patriot who would be proud to lead Britain. Sir Keir’s address was given in front of a Union Flag and was a further attempt to draw a line under the era of Jeremy Corbyn who was accused of being unpatriotic.

“I am very proud to be patriotic and I am very proud to sit or stand in front of the Union Jack,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain ahead of the speech.

During his address, he said: “The Labour party is not a nationalist party. But it is a national party. Because a nation gives us a place to belong.

“This is a remarkable nation with an extraordinary cultural heritage. British music, British fashion, British advertising, British acting. The diplomatic soft power wielded by the BBC, the world’s greatest broadcaster, which enjoys its centenary this year.”

Fleshing out the details of his new contract for the people, Sir Keir said it was motivated by a “desire to bring the country together”.

On his security pledge he said: “Everyone has the basic right to feel safe in their own community. We all need to know that the NHS is there for us when we need it. And if we work hard we should also have a right to job security.”

On prosperity he said: “Everyone should have the opportunity to thrive. To realise our ambitions and make a good life for ourselves. To have the skills we need to prosper.”

While on respect he added: “Everyone has the right to live in places we care for and to have our lives and ambitions taken seriously to be valued for who we are and what we do.”

He said that while the Conservatives had become “unworthy” of people’s trust and criticised the Government over the sharp spike in the cost of living and tax rises, he said Labour still had to win back public trust.

“I am well aware that just because the Tories lose the public’s trust it doesn’t mean Labour simply inherits it,” he said. “Trust has to be earned. I am confident but not complacent about the task ahead.”

Conservative party chair Oliver Dowden accused the Labour leader of spouting the “same old platitudes”.

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