Labour offering ‘common sense’ political centre ground, says Starmer

The Labour leader said he hoped the party was more like the one led by Sir Tony Blair than Jeremy Corbyn.

Keir Starmer gives his keynote speech
Keir Starmer gives his keynote speech

Sir Keir Starmer said he has shifted Labour to be closer to the party of Sir Tony Blair than the version led by Jeremy Corbyn.

The Labour leader, who served in Mr Corbyn’s top team, said the party was now offering “centre ground, common sense politics”.

The party’s conference in Liverpool draws to a close on Wednesday with Labour in a buoyant mood following a series of poll leads over the Tories.

“This is a confident Labour Party that’s done a lot of hard work in the last two years to change our party, remake our party, and people are now looking to the Labour Party for the answers to the very difficult questions that are out there,” he told LBC Radio.

“So this is a Labour Party that can confidently look the electorate in the eye and the electorate are looking back at the Labour Party.”

People at the conference in Liverpool can sense change is in the air, he said.

“The Government we’ve got has made an absolute mess of the economy and here you’ve got a Labour Party calmly, carefully and with confidence, setting out alternative plans for our economy and for our public services.”

Asked on Times Radio if he was comfortable saying Labour was closer to the party of Sir Tony that it was to Mr Corbyn, Sir Keir said: “I certainly hope so, because Tony Blair won three elections and I want us to win the next election.”

He added: “We are firmly on the centre ground, common sense politics, practical answers to the challenges the country faces.”

As Sir Keir delivered his keynote speech on Tuesday the party was forced to take action against MP Rupa Huq after she described Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng as “superficially” black.

In audio published online from a fringe event at the conference, Ms Huq can be heard discussing Mr Kwarteng’s elite school background, before adding that “you wouldn’t know he is black” when listening to him on the radio.

She subsequently apologised for her “ill-judged remarks”.

Sir Keir told LBC: “What she said in my view was racist, it was wrong and she’s been suspended from the whip in the party and that was done very, very quickly.”

It was not his personal decision to suspend her, he said, but “it’s a decision I absolutely agree with” and the MP will now face an investigation.

Opinion poll tracker
(PA Graphics)

Meanwhile, Sir Keir responded to claims he is boring by saying the most exciting thing he has done in his life is witness the birth of his two children.

“It was absolutely incredible to see the two most wonderful beings come into the world,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He said that the nation needs a “serious person steering the country calmly and competently to a better future” against the backdrop of war in Ukraine and an economic crisis.

“If I came on here and said I’ve done a bungee jump, you wouldn’t say: ‘Well, great, now we’ve got the prime minister we need,’” Sir Keir added.

On the final day of the conference Labour will set out plans to make GPs in England provide face-to-face appointments to every patient that requests them and a pledge to offer every primary school child access to a breakfast club.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner will close the conference and activists will also hear from Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

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