The leader of the United Kingdom’s main opposition Labour Party has made his pitch for power, promising to champion green policies, spur economic growth and improve public services to take the UK out of an “endless cycle of crisis” if chosen to lead the country at its next general election.
Delivering the keynote speech at his party’s annual conference in Liverpool on Tuesday, Keir Starmer struck out at Conservative Prime Minister Liz Truss’s move to cut taxes for the wealthiest amid a major cost-of-living crisis, urging voters not to “forget” or “forgive” the moves ahead of an anticipated national vote in 2024.
He said Labour was once again “the party of the centre ground” and promised to fix the UK’s ailing economy, revitalise the country’s National Health Service (NHS) and confront the climate crisis.
“This is a Labour moment,” Starmer told a packed auditorium in the northern English city of Liverpool.
“Britain will deal with the cost-of-living crisis. Britain will get its future back … That’s my commitment to you. The national mission of the next Labour government. And together with the British people – we will do it,” he said.
He pledged to begin work, if elected, to create one million new jobs in towns and cities, bring down energy bills, raise living standards and start to tackle climate change within the first 100 days of a new Labour government.
Starmer presented a plan to stimulate the British economy by investing in alternative energy. Pledging to make the UK a “green growth superpower,” he said Labour would set up a publicly owned clean energy company to expand sun, wind and wave power and make Britain’s electricity supply carbon-neutral by 2030.
He pledged to control immigration with a points-based system, a policy that echoes the post-Brexit stance adopted by the Conservatives.
He argued that while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the “immediate spark” of the energy and cost of living crises besetting the country, the UK had been left unprepared by successive Conservative administrations to tackle the fallout of the war.
“The war didn’t ban onshore wind, the war didn’t scrap home insulation, the war didn’t stall British nuclear energy. The Tories did that,” Starmer said.
‘A vacuum in the centre ground’
Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan, reporting from the Labour conference, said the party has a “golden opportunity” to end what has now been 12 years of consecutive Conservative rule.
“It was a confident speech from Starmer,” Brennan said. “The Conservative party has moved most definitely to the right under Truss and [Chancellor of the Exchequer] Kwasi Kwarteng, with very much more free-market economics being extolled … and the Labour Party now sees a vacuum appearing in the centre ground,” he added.
“That is where they believe the next election could be won.”
The Labour leader’s speech came as an opinion poll by YouGov for the UK’s Times newspaper put his party 17 points ahead of the Conservatives, its largest such lead in more than two decades.
Another poll, conducted September 22-25 by Deltapoll, put the lead at 13 points.
Many Labour members say the Conservative government has done them a favour by unveiling a “growth plan” on Friday that scrapped the top rate of income tax and cancelled a planned rise in corporate taxes, on top of a hugely expensive move to subsidise energy bills for struggling households and businesses.
The plan sent markets tumbling with the pound plunging to a record low and British bond prices collapsing.
Starmer has pledged to reverse the abolition of the top rate of income tax and restore it to 45 percent, as well as recommit to an Office for Value for Money to oversee taxpayers’ money and ensure it is spent in the national interest.
“What we’ve seen from the government in the past few days has no precedent,” Starmer said. “They’ve lost control of the British economy – and for what? … For tax cuts for the richest one percent in our society.
“They sent out a new message, a message that echoes around kitchens across the country and says your struggles, your hopes, your ambitions don’t matter to us. We are not here for you, we are here for those at the top.”