Labour is ready to present itself to voters as an alternative government after having put “our house in order” at its party conference, Sir Keir Starmer has said.
Following his keynote speech in Brighton on Wednesday, the Labour leader urged his supporters to embrace the legacy of Tony Blair, who was a “three-times winner” for the party.
In a round of broadcast interviews, he brushed off criticisms by left-wing supporters of former leader Jeremy Corbyn who repeatedly heckled him, saying the overwhelming majority of members supported the changes he had made.
“We have now created a platform on which we put that alternative case for government,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
“Having got my own house in order, which we needed to do, I now have to face the country and set that case out, and I am absolutely looking forward to doing so.”
‘People were with me’
Despite the barracking in the conference hall and the resignation from the shadow cabinet earlier in the week of left-winger Andy McDonald, Sir Keir said most members recognised the need for change following their disastrous defeat at the 2019 general election.
“When your party changes, when your party dusts itself down and faces the electorate, there are some people who don’t like that. But if you saw the hall yesterday, the vast majority of people were absolutely with me,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“I have been criticised that the speech went on too long. The speech was actually one hour – the extra half an hour was standing ovations and clapping.
“If you want a sense of where our movement is, they are absolutely behind me in this.”
In his speech, Sir Keir praised the record of the Blair government without mentioning by name the former prime minister – who remains an anathema to many on the left.
Back to Blair
Appearing on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Sir Keir said that it was time for the party to return to winning elections in the way that it did under Blair’s leadership.
“Tony Blair was a three-times winner in the Labour Party and we need to get back to winners in the Labour Party,” he said.
He added: “It was exactly that heckle yesterday – ‘shout slogans or change lives’.
“That is the choice for the Labour Party. We have changed, this is the platform. We have moved forward and we are going to change lives.”
Sir Keir rejected suggestions that – unlike Boris Johnson, who he dismissed as a “showman” in his speech – he did not have the charisma to lead his party to victory.
“If you want a showman, if you want a prime minister where it is priced in that he’s not really honest, then I think we have to sit back and ask ourselves what sort of politics are we really in,” he told Sky News.
“I think it is more important for a political leader to have honesty, integrity and trust.”