Sir Keir Starmer officially launches Labour leadership bid

11 January 2020, 18:12

Sir Keir Starmer speaking in Manchester
Sir Keir Starmer speaking in Manchester. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to "unite the party" and win back traditional Labour voters ahead of the next General Election.

Formally launching his leadership campaign in Manchester, Mr Starmer said said the party need to do more than just win back the Party's heartlands in order to win the next election.

He said Labour also needed to be a "very effective opposition" against Prime Minister Boris Johnson who he said was "a man of no principles, no moral compass, who will go anywhere to stay in power".

Mr Starmer said: "We need to fight to regain our heartland seats, not just those lost in this election but the ones lost in previous elections. But we have got do more than that because if we just re-win our heartland seats we will lose the next election.

The Shadow Brexit Secretary was introduced at the event by Doreen Lawrence, the mother of 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence who was murdered in a racist attack in 1993, who has said he was instrumental in getting justice for her son.

Baroness Lawrence told the audience: "He can unite the whole party and pull the movement together to enable it to build, to reform and to win."

Mr Starmer said: "We have to win seats in Scotland where we went down to one MP. We need a strategy for Scotland so we can win again. In 2017, we had seven MPs and we had 20 seats within 2,500 votes of winning and then we went backwards.

"We need to address how we win more seats in Wales. I was in Wales last night where the hurting of the Labour Party is very real in relation to seats that we should have won.

"And if you draw a line from London to Bristol and look south, there are over 120 seats and we the Labour Party have a handful. So we need to win in the south, the south east and the south west.

"That is the nature of the task. It is a mountain to climb.

"We're focusing on the last general election, (but) we have now lost four general elections in a row. The next one will probably be in four or five years' time and if we lose that we will have the longest period of the Labour Party out of power since the Second World War. We have a mountain to climb."

Sir Keir Starmer was introduced by Baroness Lawrence
Sir Keir Starmer was introduced by Baroness Lawrence. Picture: PA

Mr Starmer also said the first thing needed in Labour's fight for economic, social and climate justice was to be "united as a party".

"We cannot fight the Tories if we are fighting each other," he said. "Factionalism has to got to go."

But a Labour Party in opposition is not changing lives, he went on, and the "huge task" ahead was to forge a way forward to victory and success.

Mr Starmer said: "Let's get some founding principles. We are not going to trash the last Labour government, nor are we going to trash the last four years.

"Jeremy Corbyn made our party the party of anti-austerity and he was right to do so. He made us the party that wanted to invest more heavily in our public services and he was right to do so. We must retain that. We build on that and don't trash it as we move forward.

"The test for us is not what was in the 2017 or 2019 manifesto but what is going in the next manifesto and we need to make that relevant for the future. It has to address what is going to happen in the second half of the 2020s and 2030s. It has to give hope to people that the next 20 years can be better with a Labour government."

Speaking about Brexit, he said: "It exacerbated what was happening in our heartlands. Those heartland seats have been falling for a number of years.

"Brexit made it worse, but if we just say it was Brexit 'wot done it' we will not address what has actually been going on in our country for a decade or more.

"And if we make that mistake, we will not transform lives because we will not have properly understood."

Sir Keir Starmer and Doreen Lawrence
Sir Keir Starmer and Doreen Lawrence. Picture: PA

Prior to his speech, the Labour leadership contender vowed to lead the fight to stamp out anti-Semitism in the party if he wins the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

"We should have done more on anti-Semitism. If you are anti-Semitic you shouldn't be in the Labour Party," he said.

"What I would do is lead from the top and say it's my responsibility to deal with it. I wouldn't say it's for somebody else. I want the files, I want to know the numbers on my desk so that I can monitor this."

Sir Keir said that he had argued within the party for tougher action.

"I argued for automatic expulsion. It seemed to me that if you have been chucked out of the Labour Party for supporting another political party, you should be chucked out for being anti-Semitic."