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'Starmer's speech was a full-on embrace of New Labour, even down to the pledge card' – LabourList


Anyone who was hoping for a repudiation of New Labour in today’s speech by Keir Starmer will be sorely disappointed. In a week where some have suggested Starmerism is a rejection of it – the speech today was not just a restoration of the New Labour project but a full on embrace of it.

This isn’t because what Keir Starmer presented to voters today in his speech in Essex was like a 1997-style pledge card, although it clearly and purposefully was like a 1997-style pledge card.

It was because today, with the confidence that comes from having reshaped his party – and it is unquestionably now his party – Keir Starmer showed he is on a mission to build on the New Labour tradition, rather than distance the party from it.

At the core of that New Labour tradition is the recognition that Labour is at its strongest when it occupies the centre ground, speaking for the entire country – from Dundee to Doncaster – and yes, to Dover too. And given in the same week he has been able to win over both Natalie Elphicke and Sharon Graham, Starmer has certainly demonstrated his aptitude for this approach.

Doubtless there will be those who feel that what Keir Starmer set out today, a central promise of economic stability, along with smaller ‘first steps’ of more teachers, shorter NHS waiting times and cracking down on anti-social behaviour, doesn’t go far enough.

But those who make that criticism misunderstand where the public are after 14 years of Tory failure, chaos, and a cost of living crisis, along with a near-total collapse of public services.

‘It’s not just Britain that’s broken, its people feel broken too’

The public are exhausted. They are exhausted from having to go to four different supermarkets to complete their weekly shop – and still needing to skip meals and days out. They are exhausted from waiting on hold for hours, only to fail to speak to a real person when trying to book a GP appointment or change their energy tariff. They are exhausted from the anxiety of opening their bills each month and seeing them continue to rise.

The truth is, it’s not just Britain that’s broken; its people feel broken too. In focus groups I’ve run from the ‘red wall’ in my hometown of Wrexham, to the ‘blue wall’ in Wycombe, and the ‘first wall’ in Coatbridge and Bellshill, the overwhelming response to potential policy promises is one of disbelief. Often, I’m met with widespread cries of “It’ll never happen,” while screaming inside that the last Labour government did do these things in office, and more.

Keir Starmer clearly understands this sentiment. In his speech, he emphasised, “This next phase of our strategy is crucially important. It’s where we work tirelessly to give people back a belief in change, by showing the real difference a Labour government will make to their lives.”

When voters feel so hopeless, seeing is the only way they’ll believe. That’s why Starmer said “People want someone to get a grip – get things done and start to get Britain back on its feet. That is what our first steps are about.” The public doesn’t want sweeping statements or grand visions; they’re too tired for that. What they want is a politician who says what they’re going to do – however small – and actually does it. That’s it. And today that’s what Keir Starmer finally set out to do.


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