Keir Starmer's Labour conference speech delivered a bright new vision for UK and put Liz Truss in the shade – Scotsman comment
At a time of great crisis, with the current Conservative government adding to our woes, the public was presented with a bright new vision by a politician who looks ready to be Prime Minister.
After years in the wilderness under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour may, finally, have rediscovered a way to speak to the electorate that could appeal to enough people to win an election – just as Liz Truss has been busily demonstrating how to lose one.
Ahead of his speech, a YouGov survey put Labour on 45 per cent, 17 points ahead of the Conservatives, but this was a gap largely based on the collapse of the Tories’ credibility, rather than positive feelings towards Starmer and co.
His speech will not reverberate for long enough to have a direct impact the next time we go to the polls but, on first analysis, it could represent a turning point in public attitudes to Labour.
If Truss is unable to alter her current course, while Starmer maintains his, the next election could be a landslide.
“The government has lost control of the British economy – and for what? They’ve crashed the pound – and for what? Higher interest rates. Higher inflation. Higher borrowing. And for what? Not for you. Not for working people. For tax cuts for the richest one per cent in our society. Don’t forget. Don’t forgive,” the Labour leader said.
One of the sharpest contrasts between Starmer and Truss is in their attitudes towards energy and climate change.
While the Prime Minister has signalled a fracking boom and refused to impose a more robust windfall tax on fossil fuel giants to fund energy bill support, Starmer said his government would seek to make the UK a world leader in green technology and energy, surely one of the most recession-proof of industries.
"... some nation is going to lead the world in offshore wind. Why not this one? Some nation will win the race for electric vehicles. Why not us? Some nation will be the first to harness new hydrogen power. Why not Britain?” he said.
He promised to make a “huge national effort” to massively increase wind and solar energy to achieve “100 per cent clean power by 2030”, while also investing in tidal, hydrogen and nuclear; insulating 19 million homes; and setting up “Great British Energy”, a publicly owned company.
The latter measure may seem like a sop to Corbynistas, but it also makes practical sense to use the power of the UK state to turbocharge the development of the economy of the future.
It is undoubtedly an ambitious plan but it is one the public can have confidence in, given the resources available to the UK Government – unlike the Scottish Government’s failed attempt to set up its energy company.
But the Labour revival presents the SNP with more problems than mere embarrassment over its poor track record of delivering on its promises. Faced with a choice between Truss continuing in Downing Street or being replaced by Starmer, many voters who have switched from Labour to SNP may decide they have little choice but to go back.
And some Conservatives may be attracted by Starmer’s emerging status as a new, more credible champion of the Union, as well as his pledge to set a new target for home ownership, once a Thatcherite priority, of 70 per cent.
The Labour leader needed to tell people that politicians are not all the same, and put clear water between his party and both the shambles that was under Boris Johnson and the shambles that is under Truss.
In a good speech, he not only did that, but he offered something the nation is crying out for right now: hope.
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