Shropshire Star

'Unrecognisable from the Labour Party of 2019': How Sir Keir hopes to win over Shropshire's conservative voters

Labour leader Keir Starmer says he has his eyes set on Shropshire as he targets true-blue seats in the general election later this year.


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His party must make inroads in the county if it wants to form the next government and he visited Shrewsbury, where Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski is defending a majority of around 11,000.

Sir Keir said Shropshire voters were “looking for change”.

And he continued to distance himself from the party led by Jeremy Corbyn at the last general election.

During Sir Keir's visit to a Shrewsbury housing development, we asked him how the Labour Party planned on winning voters round in Shropshire.

On Monday, Sir Keir was joined by Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner at The Lilies, a half-finished housing development in Bicton Heath, Shrewsbury.

There, he spoke with apprentices about their work on site and with disgruntled renters who were struggling to get a grip on the increasingly illusive housing ladder.

He explained: "[The renters] are frustrated, bordering on angry. One woman I spoke to today, 54 years old and she's doing three jobs just to make ends meet and she still can't afford her house.

Sir Keir Starmer in Bicton Heath

"Another woman who's living literally in the loft of the friend because she's been evicted - these are all people who have been let down by this government.

"The dream of home ownership has been smashed for people like them in Shrewsbury and other parts of the country."

During the visit, Sir Keir laid out Labour's plans - if successful at the next election - to build 1.5 million houses within five years. These, he said, would deliver "the most affordable houses in a generation".

Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner speaking with renters in Shrewsbury

The Labour leader also spoke of planning reform to boost housebuilding, the party's plans for fast-track approval of housing on urban brownfield sites and providing "the foundation of economic stability", something he said had been missing from the current government.

On winning over Shropshire's Conservative voters, Sir Keir said that many were already looking for change.

He said: "I think there are many Conservative voters in Shropshire who would say the Tory Party that I voted for doesn't really exist anymore, it's drifted away in this division and chaos.

Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner visiting The Lilies, a Barrett Homes' development in Bicton Heath, Shrewsbury

"And I say to them, if you do want change and you do think this government has now failed, there is now a changed Labour Party - unrecognisable from the Labour Party of 2019.

"It's there, wanting to earn your vote with respect and has a plan for the country to take us forward. I think many Conservative voters would say 'I do believe in my country, I do believe in progress, and this is a national project that I can get behind'.

"Our main priority is getting the economy working for everyone, including those in Shropshire, so it works fairly; people see their living standards going up, we've got a health service that people are confident they can rely on and have housing in Shropshire that people can afford to buy."

Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner visiting Barrett Homes' development in Bicton Heath

Every week, the Shropshire Star hears tales of local hospitals pushed to their limit, with patients left waiting hours for ambulances or in A&E waiting rooms.

Just last week, the West Midlands Ambulance Service was downgraded from 'outstanding' to 'good' because of ambulance waiting times caused by handover delays at hospitals.

Sir Keir accused the Conservative government of "running the NHS into the ground".

Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner visiting Barrett Homes' development in Bicton Heath

"It is in a shocking state," he said. "Every year from this government, we have the same thing: A winter crisis, NHS crisis. They put a sticking plaster on it and never fix the problem and we go round in circles. The only thing that happens is next year is a worse crisis."

The Labour leader said the party would scrap 'non-dom' tax status, which allows some British residents to avoid paying UK taxes on money made elsewhere in the world.

"That's the tax status that allows the super-rich not to pay their tax in this country," said Sir Keir.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner speaking to residents during a visit to a new build housing estate in Bicton Heath

"I think they should pay it in this country and use that money directly to put in place working evenings and weekends in hospitals on the waiting lists, which will bring waiting list down by two million a year.

"That will be fantastically brilliant for those that are on waiting lists and very good for the economy as well because we've got an economy that isn't working very well. One of the reasons for that is there are too many people on waiting lists who can't get to work, even if they want to.

"So, if getting rid of the tax break to the super-rich is the way for doing that - I think that's the right thing to do."

Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Shrewsbury, Councillor Julia Buckley, said the older population and the stretching of services across rural Shropshire meant the country was being hit particularly hard by the continued crisis.

She said: "It's the workforce plan that Labour is bringing forward that is going to make such a difference by shifting resources back into the community.

"So once again people are going to get an appointment with their doctor or with a health visitor or mental health hub, so that people can access support at the start of their problem rather than it becoming this reactive emergency situation."

On the topic of Shropshire's regular flooding, Councillor Buckley said cuts to the Environment Agency meant a lot of the support had been taken away for towns like Shrewsbury.

Sir Keir pledged to "get ahead" of flooding with a dedicated taskforce that he said would "do the hard yards of preventing floods where they could be prevented".