Keir Starmer says Labour would 'take back our streets' as he promises 'decade of national renewal' if elected

10 October 2023, 15:44

Starmer promised to reform the police
Starmer promised to reform the police. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Sir Keir Starmer has said he would reform the police to tackle anti-social behaviour and "take back our streets", as he vowed to launch a "decade of national renewal" under Labour.

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The Labour leader warned the "way back" after 13 years of Conservative rule would be difficult - but that he would helm a reforming government, announcing a series of pledges in a wide-ranging speech.

"We’re not here to manage the shop, we’re here to make government more dynamic, more joined-up," he told the Labour party conference on Tuesday.

"Across our public services, the prize is huge. Because if we call time on wasteful police procurement, then we can have a community policing guarantee for police in your town fighting anti-social behaviour and taking our streets back."

Sir Keir was interrupted by a heckler who poured glitter over him as he got on stage to start his speech. The protester was later identified as a member of People Demand Democracy, a Just Stop Oil offshoot who want a "House of Citizens' selected by lottery.

Read more: Screaming protester glitter-bombs Keir Starmer after storming stage during Labour leader's conference speech

Read more: Yvette Cooper reveals she doesn't always feel safe walking home at night

Starmer covered in glitter by protester as he begins conference speech

Sir Keir responded: "If he thinks that bothers me, he doesn't know me. Protest or power - that's why we changed our party, conference."

The Labour leader also pledged:

  • To build 1.5 million new homes, releasing "dreary" greenbelt land like disused car parks
  • To devolve more power to towns and cities across England to give similar powers to those enjoyed by London, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands
  • To reform the NHS by boosting capacity, getting more staff working longer for better pay, and using more technology to improve efficiency
  • To build "a new generation of colleges" training nuclear technicians, automotive engineers and computer scientists

Sir Keir also repeatedly tried to present himself as a credible alternative to the Conservatives, who have been in power either alone or in coalition since 2010.

He said Labour would "fix tomorrow's challenges, today," adding: "Today we turn the page, answer the question 'Why Labour?' with a plan for a Britain built to last.

Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer. Picture: Getty

"With higher growth, safer streets, cheap British power in your home, more opportunity in your community, the NHS off its knees. A Britain with its future back.

"It will require an entirely new approach to politics - Mission Government, new priorities, totally focused on the interests of working people, five national missions all fixed on a single-minded purpose to govern for the long-term.

"End the Tory disease of 'sticking plaster politics' with a simple Labour philosophy that together we fix tomorrow's challenges, today."

He added: "Thirteen years of 'things can only get better' versus thirteen years of 'things have only got worse'.

"Conference - this is what we have to fight: the Tory project to kick the hope out of this country."

Sir Keir said: "I have to warn you: our way back from this will be hard. But know this. What is broken can be repaired. What is ruined can be rebuilt. Wounds do heal.

"And ultimately that project - their project - will crash against the spirit of working people in this country. They are the source of my hope."

Sir Keir promised to reform the NHS
Sir Keir promised to reform the NHS. Picture: Alamy

Promising NHS reform, Sir Keir said: "If all we do is place the NHS on a pedestal then I'm afraid it will remain on life support.

"I know some people don't like the word 'reform' but I tell you now there's no other option.

"We must be the government that finally transforms our NHS. We can't go on like this, with a sickness service. We need an NHS that prevents illness, keeps people healthy and out of hospital in the first place.

"We must use technology to overhaul every aspect of delivery, move care closer to communities, deploy the power of artificial intelligence to spot disease quickly.

"Mental health treatment when you need it: we'll guarantee that. The 8am scramble for a GP appointment: we will end it. Dangerous waits for a cancer diagnosis: we will consign them to history."

He added that the Conservatives would "put the NHS in the ground" if it won the next election.

Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer. Picture: Getty

Highlighting the case of footballer Hamza Semakula, who crowdfunded £15,000 for a private knee operation after injury threatened his career, Sir Keir said: "The whole point of our NHS is to be the crowdfunded solution for all of us.

"That's the fundamental principle and at the next election it's on the line.

"The Conservative Party that brought the NHS to its knees will put it in the ground. We have got to get it back on its feet."

Addressing housing, Sir Keir said: "We used to call it the 'dream of home ownership', didn't we? We used to say it glibly on stages like this. But look at Britain now - it has become a dream.

"It's out of reach for millions. And if we don't take action - it will only become more distant, a luxury for the few not the privilege of the many.

"I'm trying really hard not to mention the house that I grew up in again. But seriously, that pebble-dashed semi was everything to my family.

"It gave us stability through the cost of living crises of the seventies, served as the springboard for the journey I've been on in my life, and I believe every family deserves the same."

He also said building a series of new towns would not mean "tearing up the green belt".

Starmer promised to build 1.5 million more homes
Starmer promised to build 1.5 million more homes. Picture: Getty

Sir Keir told the Labour conference: "Labour is the party that protects our green spaces. No party fights harder for our environment.

"We created the national parks, created the green belt in the first place - I grew up in Surrey - but where there are clearly ridiculous uses of it: disused car parks, dreary wasteland.

"Not a green belt, a grey belt - sometimes within a city's boundary - then this cannot be justified as a reason to hold our future back. We will take this fight on. That's a Britain built to last."

Sir Keir also said Labour would focus on making working people in the UK better off, sharing a story of how the cost-of-living crisis "whittles away at our joy".

Keir Starmer has vowed to tackle the cost of living crisis
Keir Starmer has vowed to tackle the cost of living crisis. Picture: Getty

He said: "The reason I remember it, the privilege of it, is because on my first day back from holiday I was in a cafe, in Worthing, in Sussex, talking to people.

"And what one woman said, really stuck in my mind. She was a single mum, two kids. And she said to me: 'It's survival mode. I can't think, 'oh let's do something nice'.

"There's no long-term planning. No thinking about the future. I could see the hurt in her eyes as she told me. That's what this cost-of-living crisis does.

"It intrudes on the little things we love. Whittles away at our joy. Days out, meals out, holidays the first things people cut back on. Picking up a treat in the supermarket just to put it back on the shelf."

He added: "Conference, we have to be a government that takes care of the big decisions so working people have the freedom to enjoy what they love. More time, more energy, more possibility, more life."