Keir Starmer dons his election boots to tramp all over Tory territory

'Country first, Party second': Starmer claims Labour has changed in pitch to voters

keir starmer, new labour, conservative, blitz, opposition, labour, angela rayner, keir starmer dons his election boots to tramp all over tory territory

Sir Keir Starmer donned his election boots as Labour launched its bid to seize back 10 Downing Street after 14 years in opposition with a 48-hour blitz of battleground seats.

In a presidential style event in Thurrock, Essex, the Labour leader set the tone for the next six months of solid electioneering with a “stability” first message to voters who turned their back on the party after previously supporting Tony Blair.

With a confidenct performance surrounded by his top team, Sir Keir laid out his six “first steps” aping the five pledges of New Labour in 1997 which swept Blair to power.

Among his supporters were two former Tory donors including Boots boss Sebastian James, an Old Etonian friend of Boris Johnson and David Cameron, who endorsed Labour and praised Sir Keir’s focus on economic growth and Britain’s high streets.

The second, Rob Boughton, runs one of the biggest developers in the southeast and whose company has donated nearly £1million to the Conservatives since 2017.

But he told the audience that Labour’s message on economic stability and growth had won him over.

keir starmer, new labour, conservative, blitz, opposition, labour, angela rayner, keir starmer dons his election boots to tramp all over tory territory
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks during his visit to the Backstage Centre, Purfleet, for the launch of Labour’s doorstep offer to voters ahead of the general election (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

The launch was followed by the biggest splurge of advertising spending by Labour since 2019 and the Labour leader and his shadow cabinet members hitting battleground seats previously held by Labour but which had turned to the Tories in the last 15 years.

Shadow ministers, billboard ads, and ad vans targeted key seats which Labour need to win back in areas such as Wolverhampton, Bassetlaw, Swindon, Leigh, Doncaster, Barnet, Newcastle, Aldershot and Thurrock.

The Labour leader denied that he was trying to be “a new Tony Blair” but his message appeared to be an attempt to rebuild the middle England coalition which won New Labour three straight elections.

Thurrock was also symbolic of the sort of voters Labour appeared to want to win over because it was, until recently, a threeway split between the Tories, Labour and Nigel Farage’s Ukip. Labour have just won back the council in the Essex seat in the recent local elections.

The event was introduced by deputy leader Angela Rayner despite continuing questions about her former home and whether she broke election and tax law in describing it as her primary residence.

Sir Keir’s message appeared to be pitched towards former Tories with a pledge of economic stability, tough action on crime, and protection of borders as well as more traditional Labour messages on tackling the crisis in the NHS and improving educational standards.

But while Sir Keir was questioned over a lack of ambition in his “first steps” and a refusal to take on big battles like ending the two-child cap in child benefit, he insisted that he was not scaling back Labour’s ambition.

He said the first stage of the strategy was to recognise the scale of defeat Labour suffered in 2019 and to change the party, and the next was to expose the Government as incompetent, which he said had been assisted by the behaviour of several of their prime ministers.

keir starmer, new labour, conservative, blitz, opposition, labour, angela rayner, keir starmer dons his election boots to tramp all over tory territory
The former PM is urging the Chancellor to take action on child poverty (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

“We’re not reducing the mission,” Sir Keir said.

“I don’t accept that they’re small first steps,” he continued to insist in a Q&A with the media. “If you’re waiting on an NHS waiting list, this is a change that makes a massive difference.”

He also emphasised the need for economic stability, which Labour’s campaign material says will requires “tough spending rules”.

The Labour leader said he had recently spoken to a couple in Wolverhampton who had decided they could not afford to have a second child as a result of the fallout from Liz Truss’s 2022 mini-budget.

“I’m not prepared to let an incoming Labour government ever do that kind of damage to working people,” he told the audience.

Sir Keir sounded a note of caution about his willingness to make pre-election spending commitments when asked if he would rethink Labour’s position on the two-child benefit cap as a means towards ending child poverty.

He and the Labour leadership had been shamed by former prime minister Gordon Brown and, surprisingly, right wing Tory leadership hopeful Suella Braverman who both called for the cap to be ended in the last week.

The Labour leader said ending child poverty would be “central” to his party in power, but added: “What I can’t do is make promises that I can’t deliver on.”

Asked during an interview with ITV later how quickly the public would be able to feel the difference of Labour’s policy agenda, Sir Keir said: “On day one.”

He insisted that while some changes would take longer to implement, others like getting rid of some planning restrictions and the commitment to introduce a command force to work alongside Border Force to tackle small boat crossings could be done straight away.

The steps include measures to invest in the NHS, education and policing, to set up a new national energy company and an elite border force, and to promote economic stability.

The Labour leader cast an informal figure at the event, appearing without a jacket and tie and with his shirt sleeves rolled up, in contrast to the other high-profile party figures in attendance.

The rally cut a contrast with Rishi Sunak’s election launch at Policy Exchange earlier this week where he gave his speech alone without any of the cabinet present trying to focus on defence and security in a perilous world.

Sir Keir avoided mention of foreign policy in a constituency which had backed Brexit very strongly while he was trying to unpick the referendum result.

The Labour leader sought to portray the first steps as only a part of Labour’s wider programme for government, but also attempted to manage expectations about what the party could achieve in power following the UK’s recent economic difficulties.

keir starmer, new labour, conservative, blitz, opposition, labour, angela rayner, keir starmer dons his election boots to tramp all over tory territory
Rachel Reeves is promising economic stability (Victoria Jones/PA Wire)

Speeches came from members of Labour’s shadow cabinet, including shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, and shadow health secretary Wes Streeting.

Conservative party chairman Richard Holden claimed Sir Keir’s launch was “devoid of any plan for Britain”, while Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt compared him to the Beatles song Nowhere Man.

She told the Commons: “There’s nothing there. There’s no vision, no plan, no principles on which to steer by, which is why this pledge card will go the same way of all the others.”

The SNP meanwhile claimed Sir Keir had made no mention of Scotland, though Labour is expected to make distinct campaign launches in both Scotland and Wales in coming weeks.

The Child Poverty Action Group urged him to set out more ambitious plans to tackle poverty.

The charity’s chief executive Alison Garnham said: “A child poverty reduction plan is essential, but scrapping the two-child limit would have to be step one.”

OTHER NEWS

14 minutes ago

Labour would reignite smoking ban, shadow minister says

14 minutes ago

Monaco GP starts with red flag after three cars crash on first lap

14 minutes ago

'Lock him up': Trump booed at rally

14 minutes ago

PM doesn't rule out Johnson joining campaign

14 minutes ago

Princess Anne visits Norway site of secret operation to stop Nazi atomic bomb

14 minutes ago

Southampton beat Leeds to win richest game in football and return to Premier League

15 minutes ago

Full list of MPs standing down ahead of General Election - check map

15 minutes ago

Barcelona transfer news: Hansi Flick wants Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara

15 minutes ago

Researchers set traps to capture Alberta grizzly bear hairs

15 minutes ago

Tottenham in dialogue with European club over signing 30m forward for Ange

15 minutes ago

Mitch Keller keeps torrid May going by keeping Atlanta in check in Pittsburgh's 4-1 win over Braves

15 minutes ago

Passengers on Qatar Airways rocked by turbulence as it approached Dublin Airport say flight attendants were injured and sent into the air during scary 5 seconds which hospitalised eight people

16 minutes ago

MLB roundup: Royals cough up 3 leads, still down Rays in 11th

16 minutes ago

Scientists explain misconception about wind turbines: 'This study might allow folks to take a fresh look'

19 minutes ago

Miss USA Savannah Gankiewicz Claims She’s Received Death Threats

19 minutes ago

More Neon Love As ‘Babes’ Blasts Off Stateside – Specialty Box Office

21 minutes ago

Living on $25,000: ALICEs who live paycheck to paycheck explain how they scrape together enough food to get by

21 minutes ago

The Liberal Democrats launch their election battle bus, Yellow Hammer 1

21 minutes ago

Iran presidential election: up to 20 possible contenders gear up for battle

21 minutes ago

Celebrities in Pepsi Ad featuring Amr Diab's "Hallelujah," amidst AI claims Involving Ahmed El-Sakka and Nawal Al-Zoghbi

21 minutes ago

Pacers' Tyrese Haliburton out for Game 3 vs. Boston Saturday

22 minutes ago

England’s loss is Toulouse’s gain with Jack Willis playing the rugby of his life

22 minutes ago

Stampeders pounce on Lions for 30-6 pre-season win

22 minutes ago

‘Zaddy’: Hunky Stellenbosch lecturer goes viral [photos]

22 minutes ago

Reporter offers updates on pair of key Saints defensive linemen

22 minutes ago

Travis Kelce Attends Dallas Stars Ice Hockey Match as Team Gives Fun Nod to Taylor Swift on Social Media

22 minutes ago

Kyle Richards models snakeskin jacket and jeans on lunch date with Morgan Wade... amid claims RHOBH producers 'gave her an ultimatum' to reveal true relationship with country star

22 minutes ago

Lady Gaga delights fans as she teases upcoming seventh album at the end of her Chromatica Ball concert movie

22 minutes ago

See the EXCRUCIATING moment Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. goes down with a non-contact knee injury as Atlanta faces possibility of losing the reigning National League MVP

22 minutes ago

Video: Katie Price reveals vandals 'threw acid on her pink Range Rover' as she admits she 'can't wait to get out' of her Mucky Mansion

22 minutes ago

Video: Southampton promoted to the Premier League after beating Leeds at Wembley - with Saints netting £180MILLION payday in football's most valuable game

25 minutes ago

Climate change is behind increasing flight turbulence, Transportation Sec'y Pete Buttigieg says

27 minutes ago

How South Africa is positioning itself as a new global player

27 minutes ago

Kolkata Knight Riders destroy Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen’s Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL final

27 minutes ago

Hilarious mixed messaging fails will leave you confused

27 minutes ago

National weather forecast for Sunday May 26

27 minutes ago

Limerick find extra gear in second half to ease past challenge of Waterford

27 minutes ago

IDF announces name of two soldiers who fell in battle in Gaza

27 minutes ago

Sundowns coach questions PSL awards

27 minutes ago

Patriotic Alliance says mass deportation is not inhumane

Kênh khám phá trải nghiệm của giới trẻ, thế giới du lịch