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A former Big Brother contestant who repeatedly interrupted Sir Keir Starmer’s keynote Labour conference speech on Wednesday denied she was heckling the party leader, insisting she only spoke out because “it needed to be said”.
During his hour and a half address to the party’s annual gathering in Brighton, Sir Keir faced a series of hecklers from leftwingers opposed to his attempts to draw a line under the era of Jeremy Corbyn.
One of the main hecklers, Carole Vincent, who describes herself on Twitter as an activist and campaigner, said she now feared she would be expelled from the party.
Ms Vincent, who stood as a council candidate for the Respect Party, run by George Galloway, said: “I don’t consider it heckling, I only stood up and spoke out because it needed to be said. He spent most of his speech talking about his father. It’s not going to move the party forward by talking about the past.
“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. It’s moving further to the right.”
Sir Keir has been involved in a battle with Labour’s leftwing of the party in Brighton this week, introducing new election rules which will make it harder for left wing candidates to be chosen in future leadership elections.
On Monday night, the Shadow Employment Rights Secretary Andy McDonald, quit Sir Keir’s frontbench team, in a row over proposals for the party to back a £15 per hour minimum wage – a move resisted by Sir Keir but passed by the conference on Tuesday.
Another heckler, who only gave her name as Bonnie, held up a red card throughout the speech in protest at Sir Keir’s attempts to shift the party back to the centre.
She said: “Democracy of the Labour party has been silenced for the last 19 months…we have had members expelled and one delegate refused entry. This is not democratic. This conference should have been addressing the real problems facing society. Labour is supposed to be a social democratic party, they have taken out the socialists and they have removed the democracy, so what does Labour stand for now?
“It’s time for Keir to be shown the red card and clear the stage so we can have a leader who will listen to the membership and the general public.”
But Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “The few squawking hecklers here and there were rather underwhelming actually he showed a laser like wit in dealing with them. Keir Starmer can be pleased that he leaves this conference with his head held high and the party behind him.”
A Labour spokesperson added: “It did not knock Keir off his stride, if anything he showed the perfect response.” They added that it has been clear that there have been people within the party who have not accepted the “change that Keir is trying to push through”.