Keir Starmer labelled Boris Johnson “a trickster who’s performed his one trick” by delivering Brexit.
In his highly-anticipated speech to Labour conference in Brighton, Starmer said the prime minister is not a “bad man” – but a “showman” with “no plan”.
Sir Keir’s remarks are a contrast with those of his deputy, Angela Rayner, who lashed out at the Tories as “scum” in a fringe event on Friday night.
“It’s easy to comfort yourself that your opponents are bad people,” Starmer said. “I don’t think Boris Johnson is a bad man, I think he’s a trivial man, I think he’s a showman, he’s a showman with nothing left to show.
“He’s a trickster who’s performed his one trick. Once he’d said the words “Get Brexit done”, his plan ran out. There is no plan.”
‘Make Brexit Work’
The Labour leader – who was intermittently heckled throughout his speech – added that the UK needed to find a way of making Brexit work.
“A botched Brexit followed by Covid has left a big hole,” he said. “The government is learning that it is not enough to Get Brexit Done. You need a plan to Make Brexit Work.
“I do see a way forward after Brexit if we invest in our people and our places, if we deploy our technology cleverly and if we build the affordable homes we so desperately need.”
Earlier on Wednesday, David Lammy – the shadow justice secretary – said Labour will “fix” Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal if it comes to power.
Lammy’s suggestion that there would be more negotiations with the EU comes after Starmer said in January that Labour would have to make the Tories’ deal with the bloc “work” instead of renegotiating.
But speaking to the BBC today, Lammy highlighted the numerous problems resulting from Johnson’s post-Brexit agreement: “There are challenges for hauliers, of course, right across Europe. But let’s be clear: there are no queues in Spain, in Germany or France.
“So what’s the difference? The difference is that we exited the European Union on Boris’s deal we’re out of a customs union, the cabotage system that were set up that allowed drivers to come here and go back with goods and the tariffs that we now have mean the drivers aren’t coming.”
He added: “This is his deal. When we come to government, we’ll have to look at how we fix his deal.
“Let’s be clear, shortages right across the country, shortages of fruit pickers, shortages of builders, shortages in terms of lorry drivers: all of that is down to Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab and the promises they made to the British people.”
‘The rules don’t apply to him’
In his headlining speech in Brighton on Wednesday afternoon, Starmer sought to set out the contrast between himself and the prime minister.
Sir Keir said: “The one thing about Boris Johnson that offends everything I stand for is his assumption that the rules don’t apply to him.”
He added: “When I got pinged, I isolated. When Boris Johnson got pinged, he tried to ignore it. That’s not how I do business.”
Referring to contracts “handed out to friends and donors” and the row over the funding of Johnson’s Downing Street flat, Starmer said: “Politics has to be clean; wrongdoing has to be punished. There are times in this Parliament when I feel as if I have my old job back.
But, despite Sir Keir’s message, a Romanian-British Labour politician warned that in order to have an “effective opposition” to the Conservatives’, Labour should have a “very robust and positive immigration policy”.
Alexandra Bulat, of Migrants for Labour, said that Starmer promised at this week’s conference to support voting rights in England and Northern Ireland to be consistent with Scotland and Wales, where all residents, regardless of nationality, can vote in local elections.
But she expressed her disappointment at Keir Starmer’s scarce mention of EU migrants in his recent 14,000-word essay.““It was a chance to say, ‘the Labour Party stands with migrants, we will change immigration policy, which would actually make migrants’ lives better in the UK’,” Bulat told TLE.