Keir Starmer defends leadership style ahead of crunch conference speech

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Sir Keir Starmer (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)
Sir Keir Starmer (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said voters are prepared to give his party a fair hearing as he dismissed Boris Johnson as an untrustworthy “showman”.

Sir Keir, who is under pressure within Labour to demonstrate he can take on the Prime Minister and reverse a tide of losses, said his conference speech on Wednesday would be an “opportunity for me to set out where I think this country needs to go next”.

He said his package of measures to shake up Labour’s internal rules demonstrated that he was prepared to take tough decisions as a leader.

Do we want our politics and our political leaders and our Prime Minister to be of a characteristic where they’re untrustworthy and where it’s priced in that they are dishonest?

Sir Keir Starmer

Rejecting Mr Johnson’s style of leadership, Sir Keir told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “It’s priced in, apparently, that he’s dishonest – priced in.

“Just stop there and ask ourselves: do we want our politics and our political leaders and our Prime Minister to be of a characteristic where they’re untrustworthy and where it’s priced in that they are dishonest?

“I’m different, I’m afraid. I believe in integrity, I believe in truth.”

Defending his leadership, Sir Keir said: “I’ve just taken a tough decision in relation to rule changes, because I didn’t want to delay. And a tough, strong leader takes tough decisions when they arise and doesn’t dither and put them to one side.

“I’m about to make my speech on Wednesday and that is an opportunity for me to set out where I think this country needs to go next, and what the alternative is to this Government which is in chaos, and we’re going to see that over the course of the next month.”

I need to turn the Labour Party from where we were in 2019 into a party that is facing the country and able to win a general election

Sir Keir Starmer

The package of rule changes was significantly watered down in the face of resistance from the unions and Labour’s left wing.

Sir Keir was forced to abandon a plan to scrap the one member, one vote system for electing leaders.

But he secured support from the party’s ruling National Executive Committee for changes which would require candidates for leadership elections to have the support of 20% of MPs up from the current 10% – a move seen as a way of avoiding another Jeremy Corbyn-style figure from the fringes of the parliamentary party from becoming leader.

The rules will make it easier for sitting MPs to be reselected to stand in their seats.

“In 2019 many of our MPs spent months in their constituencies worried about whether they were going to be deselected instead of out, facing the country,” Sir Keir said.

“I need to turn the Labour Party from where we were in 2019 into a party that is facing the country and able to win a general election.

“I need everybody facing the country, so I’m very pleased with this package, it suits my central aim.”

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