Keir Starmer says he's not the heir to Tony Blair - but he won't mind if you think he is

16 May 2024, 16:10 | Updated: 16 May 2024, 16:11

Sir Keir Starmer speaks during his visit to the Backstage Centre, Purfleet, Thursday
Sir Keir Starmer speaks during his visit to the Backstage Centre, Purfleet, Thursday. Picture: Alamy
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Keir Starmer's Presidential pitch to the nation today was every bit Tony Blair, even if he won't admit it.

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The sleeves-rolled-up, tie off look, no notes, podium-free pitch from the Labour boss was meant to solidify his retail offer to voters into six key messages.

And he's keen to prove that - like Tony Blair was at the same point in the electoral cycle in the 90s - that he's ready for power.

For those hoping for some flesh on the bones of an already thin offer from Labour, you'd be left a little disappointed.

But the glitzy event, a show of unity from his serious-looking shadow cabinet, complete with snazzy videos, business-leader endorsements, and adoring supporters clutching posters and cheering, projects a package of a party with a spring in their step, on the path to power.

The style, if not the substance of the launch, will do little to shake off Starmer's 'heir to Blair' badge which Labour insiders are clearly not that desperate to shake off.

Team Starmer know exactly what they're doing in revealing his new six-point-pledge card (which definitely, definitely isn't a pledge card).

They said these formed the 'first steps' of what they would do in power if they snatch the keys to No10 this year.

Today's poster launch came with a moody black and white photograph of Starmer, arms folded, looking as Prime Ministerial as possible.

It's a near identical pose to some of Blair's own campaign snaps - but with a more serious expression slapped on his face.

A serious man, for serious times.

Starmer looked calm and confident as he watched his team stride onto the stage to give their elevator pitches.

Battling for voters in the heart of Essex, where they need to turn voters from blue to red, he focused on core bread and butter issues like NHS waiting lists, schools and the economy.

That a crackdown on anti-social behaviour made it into the top six over the housing crisis is just a stone's throw in message from the 'tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime' rhetoric of New Labour.

Starmer insisted the world is very different to that of Tony Blair's in 1997, as he laughed off questions about his similarities with the former leader.

“Some of the things that are important about winning power are the same of course they are," he admitted.

"It’s not copycat ... we are 27 years on from 1997.. the challenges we face are not same as faced by Tony Blair.”

There's no secret tattoo of Tony hidden up his shirt, he promised us.

But he did admit to whoops from the audience: "Well the first thing I'd say about Tony Blair, other than he took his tie off at big events, is that he won three elections in a row."

His six promises - far more vague than anything Blair put on his own pledge cards - will be significantly easier to achieve than his predecessors.

But make no mistake.

His mission to bring the country out of fourteen years of Tory rule, to the offering of a completely changed party, a renewed focus back to working people, and to offer hope that things can only get better, shone through every aspect of his mini-campaign launch.

If voters can remember a three-time election winner when they think of Keir Starmer's Labour in the polling booth, that's no bad thing.