Sir Keir Starmer: Winning an election more important than Labour Party unity

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Sir Keir Starmer prepares his conference speech before addressing delegates in Brighton - Stefan Rousseau/Reuters
Sir Keir Starmer prepares his conference speech before addressing delegates in Brighton - Stefan Rousseau/Reuters

Sir Keir Starmer has said winning is more important than party unity as he prepares to use his Labour conference speech on Wednesday to signpost the end of the Jeremy Corbyn era.

The Labour leader will stress the party's new focus on building links with business and being responsible with taxpayers' money when he addresses delegates in Brighton. There will also be an attempt to introduce his personal story and political outlook to voters in his first speech to an in-person conference as leader.

The speech closes a conference in which Sir Keir's allies are buoyant after rule changes were passed that make it more difficult for hard-Left activists to unseat Labour MPs and reclaim the leadership.

One ally said Labour's Left was more weakened than at any time since Tony Blair's leadership. Sir Keir's speech is not expected to explicitly mention Mr Corbyn.

Asked on Tuesday whether unity within the Labour Party or winning mattered more to him, Sir Keir told the BBC: "Winning. Winning a general election. I didn't come into politics to vote over and over again in Parliament and lose and then tweet about it. I came into politics to go into government to change millions of lives for the better."

The speech comes almost 18 months after Sir Keir won the party leadership. He has been working on it since the summer while reflecting, during seaside walks in Devon, how he wanted to refashion the party and its policies.

It is expected to emphasise how Labour has shed aspects of the Corbynite agenda deemed to put off voters, including by embracing a more pro-business stance.

"Too often in the history of this party, our dream of a good society falls foul of the belief that we will not run a strong economy," Sir Keir will say. "But you don't get one without the other, and under my leadership we are committed to both. I can promise you that, under my leadership, Labour will be back in business."

A Labour source said: "Keir's speech will be noticeably different from what you've heard from Labour in recent years. It will be more optimistic, more focused on the future, more outward looking.

"The speech will be a demonstration of the way the Labour Party has changed. It will be a clear indication that Labour will never again go into an election with a manifesto that isn't a serious plan for government."

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