28 Sep 2022

Political Insider: Labour Party Conference

The major challenge for a leader in party conference season is to reach beyond the narrow confines of the party membership and policy wonks in attendance and strike a resonant chord with the general public. This is often a difficult ask, particularly amidst a forest of convoluted conference motions, votes on obscure rule changes and the general intrigue of a political party. However, Keir Starmer’s speech this afternoon achieved that feat; it had a laser-like focus on the members of the general public that he needs to vote Labour if he is going to form the next Government.


The slogan of this Labour Conference has been ‘Fairer, Greener Future’ and Starmer majored on that, with the key policy announcement being the pledge to set up the public-owned Great British Energy company that will run on clean UK power in Labour’s first year in government.

With a winter of discontent approaching for families and businesses, Starmer outlined his belief that green and growth are inseparable.

While some many quibble about the focus on net zero during a time of profound economic crisis, Starmer clearly believes that energy independence is the answer to the country’s current woes. Alongside the commitment to protect the environment, those around the Labour leader clearly feel there is a play to be made for those who have been left uneasy by the Truss Government’s recent announcements on fracking, for example.

By emphasising repeatedly that this energy revolution would power up all parts of the country, the Labour leader showed his party is serious about taking back those seats in the north which were lost in 2019.

With Liz Truss seemingly jettisoning levelling up in favour of trickle down, Starmer outlined a concerted effort to show that Labour is a party for the whole of the country and referenced Blair’s famous line of calling Labour the political wing of the British people. While he was giving a speech at a conference that risked being overshadowed by the fallout from the government’s fiscal event on Friday, Starmer knows that the fight is now on to be the party of economic responsibility.

The sense that “we’re all in this together” was a theme running through the speech. A commitment not to partner with the SNP after any election was forcefully delivered. By speaking directly to Scottish voters and emphasising that voting Labour – rather than SNP – was the fastest way to get rid of the Tories, it was a sign that Starmer is serious about clawing back another part of the Labour family which abandoned the party.

He also announced a target to ensure 70% of British people own their homes and that the party will help first-time buyers onto the property ladder with a new mortgage guarantee scheme. Starmer proudly announced that Labour is the party of home ownership today, firmly parking his tanks on the Tories’ lawn and reaching out directly to those voters who feel frustrated with the current system.

The policy announcements in Keir’s speech were targeted at those ‘hero voters’ who his top team know he needs to win over in order to be the next Prime Minister.

These includes those who voted Conservative under Johnson who are now disappointed at Truss’ lack of enthusiasm for levelling up, those Liberal Democrat and Green voters who prioritise the green agenda and SNP voters in Scotland who are frustrated with being taken for granted by a Westminster government.

Although the speech was given to a room full of Labour members, Starmer was speaking directly to those individuals outside of the conference hall in Liverpool that he knows will decide whether he is this country’s next Prime Minister. And following this speech, Labour will feel they are closer to this goal than ever before.


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