Keir Starmer's first speech of 2023 plagued by audio issues
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has followed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in setting out his party’s vision for the years to come, vowing to take on what he described as “sticking plaster politics” and turning the Brexit motto of “take back control” from “a slogan into a solution”.
Speaking from the same east London location where Mr Sunak spoke on Wednesday – something which prompted Sir Keir to joke that he wouldn’t “tell the PM where I’m going on holiday this year” in case he turns up there – the former Brexit secretary called for a “completely new way of government” which would lead to “a decade of national renewal”.
The ’Take Back Control Bill’
In a speech initially marred by sound issues for those watching on TV news channels, Sir Keir said if his party entered government at the next general election, the “centrepiece” in their first King’s speech would be a ‘Take Back Control Bill’ - a piece of legislation which borrows from the 2016 Vote Leave campaign and will “deliver on the demand for a new Britain”.
He said: “We will spread control out of Westminster. Devolve new powers over employment support, transport, energy, climate change, housing, culture, childcare provision and how councils run their finances.
One of the main phrases coined by Sir Keir in his speech was “sticking plaster politics”, referring to a “short-term mindset” which “dominates Westminster” and “infects all the institutions which try and fail to run Britain from the centre”.
To further illustrate this new term, he gave the example of the Winter price freeze on energy bills, saying that while it was “necessary” it was an “expensive, last-minute fix” which was about “papering over cracks in our energy security that have been on display for decades”.
He also said the Westminster system was “part of the problem”.
The war in Ukraine
Immediately after this, the Labour leader turned to the ongoing war in Ukraine – specifically the energy crisis caused by the UK Government cutting off its reliance on fuel from Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which invaded Ukraine last February.
He told the audience: “Don’t get me wrong: nobody criticises the Government for the effects of the war in Ukraine.
“But the war didn’t scrap home insulation, the war didn’t ban onshore wind, the war didn’t stall British nuclear energy – the Tory government did that.”
He also brought up his previously announced plans for Great British Energy, a publicly owned energy company, which would form part of an energy strategy which he said would give the UK “energy independence from tyrants like Putin forever”.
No “big government cheque-book”
Making clear his party’s stance on fiscal responsibility and spending, Sir Keir stressed the measures laid out in his speech “should not be taken as code for Labour getting its big government chequebook out”.
“I can see the damage the Tories have done to our public services as plainly as anyone else, but we won’t be able to spend out way out of their mess – it’s not as simple as that.”
Sir Keir also detailed a two-step plan when it comes to supporting local communities, the first of these being a move to “modernise central government” in order for it to be “focused” and “driven by clear, measurable objectives”.
“A new approach to the power of government. More strategic, more relaxed about bringing in the expertise of public and private, business and union, town and city, and using that partnership to drive our country forward,” he said.
As for the second part of the plan, this related to "giving communities the chance to control their economic destiny".
He continued: “The argument is devastatingly simple. The decisions which create wealth in our communities should be taken by local people with skin in the game.”
Sir Keir also confirmed he would set out further details of these “national missions” for a Labour government “in the coming weeks” – missions which would form part of their next manifesto.
Away from the speech, questions from the media saw the Labour leader confirm that his government would repeal any anti-strike legislation brought in by the Conservative government passed by parliament, saying that he doesn’t think such a law “is going to work”.
He said he would “get in the room and talk to them” if he was in Mr Sunak’s position, claiming the government “hasn’t got a strategy” for resolving the strikes.
In response to another question about small boat crossings across the English Channel, he also pledged to tackle the criminal gangs behind the dangerous journeys “at the source”.
All of this should make for an interesting clash at the first Prime Minister’s Questions of the year, which takes place next Wednesday when parliament returns from its festive recess.
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