Labour conference: Sir Keir Starmer accuses 'cavalier' Tories of putting the Union in 'peril'

Sir Keir Starmer has accused the “cavalier” Conservatives of putting the Union in “peril” as he claimed the public were waking up to the poor response from the UK Government.

The Labour leader will use his keynote speech on the final day of the party’s conference in Brighton to discuss issues such as the fuel crisis and cost of living.

After a tumultuous series of days where the focus has been on internal Labour divisions, with shadow Cabinet member Andy McDonald quitting and deputy leader Angela Rayner refusing to apologise for describing the Conservatives as “scum”, Sir Keir will respond by accusing the UK Government of putting the Union at risk.

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He is expected to say: “I believe in the Union of the nations of these islands, but we have a cavalier government that is placing that in peril.

Labour leader Keir Starmer prepares his party conference speech in his hotel room, on the eve of his address to delegates. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/AFP via Getty ImagesLabour leader Keir Starmer prepares his party conference speech in his hotel room, on the eve of his address to delegates. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/AFP via Getty Images
Labour leader Keir Starmer prepares his party conference speech in his hotel room, on the eve of his address to delegates. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/AFP via Getty Images

“Scotland is in the unfortunate position of having two bad governments – the Tories at Westminster and the SNP at Holyrood.

“When Nicola Sturgeon took office, she said she wanted to be judged on her record.

"These days with the poorest in society less well educated and less healthy, and the tragedy of so many drug-related deaths, we hear rather less about the SNP’s record.

“The SNP and the Tories walk in lockstep. They both exploit the constitutional divide for their own ends. Labour is the party that wants to bring our nations together.”

Sir Keir will also attack the UK Government over its handling of the fuel and cost-of-living crisis.

He is tipped to say: “I see the government lost in the woods with two paths beckoning. One path leads back where we came from. None of the lessons of Covid are heeded.

“The divisions and flaws that were brutally exposed by the pandemic all worsen.

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“But there is another path down which we address the chronic problems revealed by Covid with the kindness and the togetherness that got us through.

“That path leads to a future in which a smart government enlists the brilliance of scientific invention to create an economy in which people are healthy and well-educated.

“Too often in the history of this party our dream of the good society falls foul of the belief that we will not run a strong economy.

“But you don’t get one without the other. And under my leadership we are committed to both.

“The questions we face in Britain today are big ones.

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“[They are] how we emerge from the biggest pandemic in a century, how we make our living in a competitive world. The climate crisis, our relationship with Europe, the future of our Union.”

“These are big issues, but our politics is so small. So our politics needs to grow to meet the scale of the challenge.”

Labour sources claim the speech will be unlike others given by political leaders in recent years.

A Labour source said: “Keir’s speech will be noticeably different from what you’ve heard from Labour in recent years.

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“It will be more optimistic, more focused on the future, more outward looking.

“The speech will be a demonstration of the way the Labour party has changed.

“It will be a clear indication that Labour will never again go into an election with a manifesto that isn’t a serious plan for government.”

The party conference has seen a series of public rows for Sir Keir.

First the Labour leader was forced to criticise his deputy after she called the UK Government “scum” and then Mr McDonald resigned on Monday, claiming his position as a member of Sir Keir’s top team had become "untenable".

Despite the ongoing row with the left of his party, Sir Keir insisted winning was more important than party unity.

He told the BBC: “Winning a general election [is the key].

“I didn’t come into politics to vote over and over again in Parliament and lose, and then tweet about it.

“I came into politics to go into government to change millions of lives for the better.”

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The Labour leader was also challenged over claims he was trying to isolate those on the left of his party.

He said: “This is to focus on the future. We went into the last election with a manifesto that was roundly rejected by the electorate. We cannot do that again.”

The Labour leader also waded into the fuel crisis, but refused to blame Brexit.

He explained: “I wouldn’t say that Brexit is to blame. What I would say is that it was inevitable as we exited the EU that we needed a plan to deal with drivers.

“That is obvious whether you voted Remain or voted Leave, and we took that decision years ago.

“And here we are with a shortage of drivers which was completely predictable and predicted – and the government hasn’t got a plan.”



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