Keir Starmer tells hecklers they can ‘chant all day’

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Sir Keir Starmer has faced chants of “shame” and calls for Labour’s leadership to support a £15 minimum wage during his first conference speech.

Critics held up red cards in protest as Sir Keir delivered his speech, but the Labour leader hit back and asked whether the detractors were “shouting slogans, or changing lives”.

He said: “At this time on a Wednesday it’s normally the Tories that are heckling me, it doesn’t bother me then, and it doesn’t bother me now.”

And he was greeted with applause when he challenged hecklers.

Sir Keir was heckled on the £15 minimum wage as he paid tribute to the NHS workers who cared for his mother and those working throughout the pandemic.

Shouts were heard of “throw them out”, and were met with sustained supportive applause for the Labour leader.

A heckle of “it was your Brexit policy” could be heard as Sir Keir spoke of a serious plan for Government.

But after being interrupted again, he replied: “You can chant all day,” before being applauded by the audience.

Party activist Carole Vincent, from the Leyton and Wanstead constituency in east London, said she expected to be thrown out of the party for heckling the leader – and added she did not expect Sir Keir to survive in post until the next conference either.

She told the PA news agency: “I don’t consider it to be heckling, I consider that I stood up and spoke out because it needed to be said.

“He had ignored – and this conference has ignored – people that have been standing up and asking for him to guarantee the 15% rise for the NHS, a £15 minimum wage.

“You can’t live in many major cities – not just London but other cities – on the wages that people get.”

Labour Party Conference 2021
Activist Carole Vincent heckled Sir Keir Starmer (Andrew Matthews/PA)

She said Sir Keir had 10 pledges during his leadership campaign but claimed he has “reneged on most of those”.

She added: “He talked about uniting the party. The party has never been so divided as it is now and it’s getting worse.

“I probably will be expelled and that’s sad because I work bloody hard for this party.”

Ms Vincent said she had been “showing him the red card when he said something that I thought is not acceptable and that he should be actually challenging the Government on, or saying how he is going to do something”.

Asked if she thought Sir Keir would be leader at the next conference, she said: “I don’t. I think there will be a challenge at some point, I’m not sure who will do it.”

Asked about the hecklers on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for child poverty Wes Streeting said: “If you are going to do the work of the Conservative party for them, out you go, you won’t be missed.”

A Labour spokesman said the heckling was not unexpected.

The spokesman said the fact a “number of people” had red pieces of paper to hold up to oppose Sir Keir may have suggested the hecklers were organised.

But he added: “Obviously there was clearly a view that there could be those who would want to express an opinion in the speech.”

He said he did not know whether the ripostes used against the hecklers by Sir Keir were rehearsed, but added there were only a “small number” who were disruptive.

He said: “Ultimately it didn’t distract from the message that Keir wanted to get across. He delivered the speech in the positive, optimistic, confident tone that I said yesterday was what he would be doing and that’s what he did today.

“We’re very happy with how it went, obviously.”

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