Keir Starmer: I'll end 'bashing of London' and get more homes 'built at speed' in city if PM

Keir Starmer: I'll end 'bashing of London' and get more homes 'built at speed' in city if PM

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Sir Keir Starmer is vowing to end the “bashing of London” and instead get more homes “built at speed” in the capital if he becomes Prime Minister.

Speaking exclusively to The Standard, the Labour leader promised to work “hand in glove” with Sadiq Khan to ease the city’s housing crisis.

He stressed this would be a dramatic shift from the current often tense situation with the “national Government picking a fight with the Mayor of London”.

Ramping up house building would ease upward pressure on rents, he added, which have soared, making it increasingly hard for many people particularly the young to live in the capital.

In a wide-ranging interview, Sir Keir:

Sir Keir has unveiled Labour’s six first steps on the economy, NHS, immigration, energy, anti-social behaviour and recruiting 6,500 new teachers.

But the party has faced criticism for not giving more details of its plans for government.

Pressed on spiralling rents in London, the Labour leader, though, did make a commitment on building more homes faster.

Sir Keir Starmer meets local business owners during a visit to the Oak  Caffe in Barnet on Monday (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
Sir Keir Starmer meets local business owners during a visit to the Oak Caffe in Barnet on Monday (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

“One of the important things if there is an incoming Labour government is that we will have a London mayor and a Labour government working hand in glove...instead of what you have had in recent years which is the national government picking a fight with the mayor of London,” he said.

“There will be an end to that.

“We will work together and be able to build more houses as a result at speed. That will have an impact on the rented sector which is acutely pressurised in terms of the rents that people are paying.”

Cabinet ministers have regularly clashed with Mr Khan over key issues including transport funding, housing, policing and crime, with some Tories indulging in anti-London jibes seemingly to woo voters in the “Red Wall” in the North and Midlands.

Sir Keir said: “Tory bashing of London is a huge mistake.

“It’s a very short-sighted, counter-productive, divisive way to look at politics.”

Tuesday’s Standard front page (Evening Standard)
Tuesday’s Standard front page (Evening Standard)

While London is the country’s economic “powerhouse”, he also stressed it is a “real mix”.

He added: “Yes, there is wealth in London but there is also extreme poverty.

“When I talk about levelling up...that is to level up across the country but not at the expense of London. Nobody wants to bring London down.”

One of the factors holding back the capital is a shortage of workers including in the hospitality sector.

But Sir Keir does not back easing immigration rules as the answer.

“The problem with the over-arching migration numbers is they are too high and they are too high because of a lack of skills strategy in this country,” he stated.

Sir Keir headed to North London yesterday where he stressed how the party had changed from the Corbyn years.

He rejected claims in Islington North that Labour chiefs behaved “undemocratically” by deciding on the Labour candidate, Praful Nargund, without a hustings or vote locally.

He also warned Labour voters considering backing the ex-party leader: “In the end it’s a straight fight between more chaos and division under the Tories or an incoming Labour government.

“If you want change, you have to vote for it.”

Sir Keir met former Tory and Liberal Democrat voters at the Oak Caffe in Whetstone, North London, who are now considering voting Labour, some praising him for rooting out anti-semitism in Labour’s ranks.

Amid the controversy over the Met Police’s policing tactics for pro-Gaza marches in central London, the Labour leader stressed officers had “a very difficult balance to strike and they have got to do it in real time”.

He added: “It’s right that people should have the right to protest but of course there has been behaviour, extremism, within some of those marches, anti-semitism included, which absolutely has to be called out and has to be followed up with arrests and prosecutions.”

On global warming, Sir Keir has been criticised for delaying the implementation of his £28 billion green economy plan.

“Let me reject the accusation that we have watered down,” he said.

“The pledge is clean power by 2030, so that’s renewables by 2030. Everybody who looks at that takes a sharp intake of breath and says that is going to be really difficult.

“It’s doable but it’s really difficult.”

Getting more people onto the railways and out of their cars would cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Commuters, though, should not expect any wide-scale ticket price cuts from Labour’s renationalisation of the railways.

“That will come with a best fare guarantee because at the moment you have got multiple fares costing a fortune,” said Sir Keir.

“I’m not going to pretend that what it also brings is slashing of all fares across the board,” he added.