Five things we learned during Sir Keir Starmer’s speech

Patrick Daly and David Hughes, PA
·3-min read

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer used Parliament’s half-term break to set out his post-coronavirus vision for Britain in a speech delivered virtually.

Here are five things we learned from the 30-minute speech on Thursday.

– The rise of the three-word slogan

Labour has clearly been impressed by Boris Johnson’s penchant for three-word slogans.

While the Prime Minister “took back control” and “got Brexit done”, then moved on to “hands, face, space” during the coronavirus crisis and a promise to “build back better”, the Labour leader took to the stage to deliver his big economic speech from a podium that stated “secure, protect, rebuild”.

– Harking back

Sir Keir showed it is not just Churchill fan Mr Johnson who likes to hark back to the Second World War.

For the Labour leader, it is Clement Attlee and the “new Jerusalem” that the post-war government sought to build which are the inspiration.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the nation's mood matched the post-war spirit seen after 1945
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the nation’s mood matched the post-war spirit seen after 1945 (Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror)

In his speech, Sir Keir said: “I believe there’s a mood in the air which we don’t detect often in Britain.

“It was there in 1945, after the sacrifice of war, and it’s there again now.”

He referenced the Beveridge Report, which paved the way for the NHS and welfare state, saying the current crisis should be a similar “call to arms”.

– Bring on the policies

The Opposition leader has often said he did not want to get into specific policies with an election still three years away.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer delivers a virtual speech on Britain’s economic future
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer delivers a virtual speech on Britain’s economic future (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

But, having seen Labour’s progress stall in the polls, he unfurled not one but two policies that he would deploy if he becomes prime minister in 2024.

With Britons having squirreled away a reported £100 billion in savings since the pandemic started, Sir Keir said he would offer a “British recovery bond” to help create funds for investment while also giving savers a stake in the country’s future.

He also unveiled plans to offer 100,000 start-up loans to new businesses in a bid to “back a new generation of British entrepreneurs” in every region across the country.

– No regrets

Labour has faced flak for failing to offer sterner criticism of the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, especially when it has come to invoking lockdowns.

But, speaking to reporters after his speech at Labour’s headquarters in central London, Sir Keir said he did not agree with accusations that the party had been “soft” on the Tory administration.

“I don’t think that (being a constructive Opposition) is soft, I think that’s the national interest,” he said.

“I think the public would say, in a time like this, you back the things the Government is doing right and you challenge them where you think they are getting it wrong in order that they improve on that.”

– Personality politics

The idea of party leaders needing to sell to voters not only their policies but also their personalities and background has become dominant in modern politics and Sir Keir responded in kind.

The former shadow Brexit secretary said his motivation for being leader was to “put right” injustices and that determination “pulses through my veins”.

The online audience heard about how he was previously director of public prosecutions and that he had spent “two decades fighting human rights cases”.

Close watchers of politics have heard about how Sir Keir’s mother was a nurse and his father was a tool maker.

His father got another reference in this speech, with Sir Keir describing how his dad’s career on the factory floor and the security it created for the family provided the inspiration for his new start-up loans policy.