Analysis: Sir Keir Starmer urged to show 'why Labour' ahead of crucial party conference speech

The Labour leader will deliver his conference speech on Tuesday afternoon.

Sir Keir Starmer has been urged to show “why Labour” ahead of his key speech at Labour party conference.

The Labour leader will make an address on Tuesday afternoon, with his party ahead in the polls and fresh of the back of the by-election victory in Rutherglen and Hamilton West.

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Despite the feel-good factor at conference, there are still concerns the party is not being bold enough in its offering, but also an understanding things are difficult after the mini-budget.

Multiple MPs suggested Sir Keir should do more on housing, and make a stronger pitch as to what Starmerism entails, just one day after his shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves delivered a speech stressing fiscal responsibility.

The Scotsman understands the leader’s speech may contain housing measures, convey how important Scotland is to a Labour victory and expand on the GB energy policy previously announced by Ed Miliband. Insiders say it’s less about policy, and more a narrative of what a Labour Government could do.

Speaking to figures in Scottish Labour, one source called for importance to be placed on Michael Shank’s by-election win, and for the Labour leader to convey how a UK Government would be good for Scotland.They said: “I don’t want to see complacency, and I want references to how Scotland has transformed the buzz at this conference, and how a UK Labour Government could respect and enhance all parts of the UK.

“I want attention to Scotland, and how sick we are of conflict. It suits the Tories and th SNP, but doesn’t deliver for the people of Scotland. I want to reset the relationship, and show grownups are in the room”.

“I want big ticket ideas, to see Labour’s values, and convey how he’ll govern.”

They also dismissed criticism from the SNP that Labour was pro-austerity because it wouldn’t scrap the two-child benefit cap, and called for a bigger picture of the sweeping change Sir Keir’s party could deliver.

The Scottish Labour source told The Scotsman: “It’s not about tinkering with one benefit. There will be a review of universal credit, there will be sweeping change.

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“It’s a coherent coordinated approach, and should be whether it’s on child poverty or industrial strategy”.

The source pointed to wind turbines not being built in Scotland as an example of failings the party could address.

They added: “There’s lots of layers to the onion. I am hoping to see why Labour, and what that means for the community”.

Sir Keir has faced extensive criticism from many on the left of his party, as well as from the SNP, of not doing enough to differentiate his offer from the Conservatives.

They say the party has not gone far enough on trans rights or housing, and taken a hardline on drugs by saying cannabis can “destroy lives”.

One MP on the left of the party was scathing about his drug policy, suggesting it flew in the face of evidence, and would be an easy way to show a more progressive politics.

They said: “It would be a number one area to address for me, I’m desperate for the party to move towards a more evidence-based approach but LOTO won’t listen.

“Drug policy could be moved from the Home Office to Health, that's an immediate thing. Given he could be attacked for it I understand why he won't, but in my seat nobody thinks cannabis is a terrible scourge, and we can change not only how people consume it, but the quality.

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"He could lead on drug reform, that’s the Labour party I’d like to see”.

The MP was also pessimistic not just about the quality of the speech, but how substantial it could be.

They said: "As cliche and like an excuse as it sounds, in the financial circumstances we’re in, I do get that we’re very unlikely to just fix all the damage done by years of Conservative Government’s in one term, let alone one speech.

"I think we’re running strictly on vibes at the moment, and they are really good vibes, there is a feel-good factor about things, but I think any real change is going to need a second term.

"I want Keir to show how he can stabilise the country, and what his vision is to improve things. But the reality is, the meaningful change we need across departments isn’t going to happen without more sweeping reform. If you look at Blair in 1997, it doesn’t have to be radical to make meaningful change”.

Another MP called for Sir Keir to give people a reason to vote for Labour, warning it would not be enough to rely on the Tories and SNP imploding.

They said: “I think we might see a few rabbits out of the hat (at least I hope so)

“Ultimately I want him to enthuse, inspire and give hope. A bit of oomph!

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“I want him to give the country the reason to vote Labour, not just not vote Tory.

Housing, I think that’s the big gap at the moment, and there’s just no mention of it”.

Others were more optimistic, dismissing his critics, and pointing to Labour leading in the polls for more than a year.

An MP said: “We’ve got the party back, are winning by-elections, and in a good place without getting carried away.“Keir just needs to keep doing what we’re doing, keep holding the failing Tory and SNP Government’s to account, and the rest will work itself out”.



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