Sir Keir Starmer speech: Whisper it, but Labour look a party interested in governing again

Labour conference was an event low on drama, infighting or gaffes, and it’s all the better for it.

Gone was the factionalism of years past that took up news space, and the focus on itself instead of the country.

From singing the national anthem, to a speech heavy on patriotism, the party has a clear strategy without the usual dissenting voices speaking out to hold it back.

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The conference started with “God Save the King” – a spectacle some on the left were uncomfortable with.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer, with his wife Victoria, leaves the stage after giving his keynote address during the Labour Party Conference at the ACC Liverpool. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
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But stepping back, the party whose previous leader was accused of hating Britain now seems to celebrate it.

Going off without a hitch, the singing set the tone for a conference focused on patriotism, and making wanting people to have a better quality of life part of that.

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Last year Sir Keir Starmer was heckled at a conference where his wing took control of the party machinery, removing the left from positions of power.

As a result, there are less big names to spark internal party drama, with Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) boss Mick Lynch the only big name calling for Sir Keir to go. But he isn’t even a Labour member.

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Without infighting, the party just felt more serious, the conference more professional, and the words uttered more significant.

Consider shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, who last year spent her whole broadcast round discussing deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner calling the Tories “scum”.

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Now the questions were solely about the economy, with the pound collapsing and the actual Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng refusing to comment.

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Shadow ministers are talking about their actual briefs, which can only be a good thing for the party.

Events that seem out-of-place at Labour conference, like the national anthem, like tributes to the Queen, were embraced by members who are seemingly beginning to feel they can win.

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And the party does feel that, with Labour 17 points ahead in the polls, the pound tanking and MPs quietly telling journalists they think it might actually be about to happen.

Then there was Sir Keir’s speech, helped by pollster and strategist Deborah Mattinson, which showed Labour is trying to win back what they call “hero voters”, who are Brexit-backing former Labour supporters.

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Believing these are now up for grabs, the party wants to do enough to win votes from the centre, but also retain a thread of leftism for members to get behind.

That’s why, along with mentions of the Queen and once again stressing the need to stamp out anti-Semitism, there was also the announcement of a British state-owned energy company to rival France's EDF, known as Great British Energy.

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Essentially a nationalised start-up, it, along with the nationalisation of the railways, helps Sir Keir’s credentials with the left, and are also policies polling shows the public support.

Then there were attacks on the UK Government’s delivery of Brexit and stressing Labour were the party of fiscal responsibility.

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These comments would have been unthinkable 18 months ago. Now the Tories have delivered a fiscal event seemingly designed to drive support for the Labour party.

Sir Keir seemed more confident, the party more buoyant and perhaps, at long last, ready to win.

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