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Starmer to quote Blair in calling Labour ‘political wing of the British people’

Party leader Sir Keir Starmer (PA)
Party leader Sir Keir Starmer (PA)

Sir Keir Starmer will quote Sir Tony Blair to dub Labour the “political wing of the British people”, as he accuses the Tories of having lost control of the economy and the centre ground.

The Labour leader will use his speech to the party conference in Liverpool on Tuesday to commit to getting the UK “out of this endless cycle of crisis” with a “fresh start”.

Sir Keir will outline an ambition to “turn the UK into a growth superpower” as he argues Labour is the party of financial responsibility after the pound plummeted in response to the Tories’ plans to borrow billions to pay for massive tax cuts.

He will argue Labour is now the party of “sound money” and recommit the party to an office for value for money to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent in the national interest.

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Former prime minister Sir Tony Blair (Victoria Jones/PA)

But his direct quoting of Sir Tony, the last Labour leader to win a general election, also seeks to put further distance between himself and his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn.

The Conservatives accused Labour of “another relaunch full of vacuous statements and empty promises, with no details”, as they claimed “no one knows what Starmer stands for”.

“Starmer is a weak leader with no plan to grow the economy,” a Tory spokesman said.

“This Conservative Government is taking bold and decisive action to grow the economy and get Britain moving again.”

Sir Tony referred to New Labour as the “political wing of the British people” ahead of his landslide 1997 election victory, in a departure from the party being described as the political wing of the union movement.

A Labour spokesman said echoing Sir Tony is an intentional move to show that Labour is “back in the centre ground” and in the “mainstream” of public opinion.

“Ultimately he wants to be the next Labour leader who takes the party from opposition into government,” the spokesman said.

He accepted Sir Keir has overhauled the party to distance it from the one led to two general election defeats under Mr Corbyn, who is sitting as an independent MP as he fights suspension.

“We’ve changed the party to make sure we’re in tune with the instincts and aspirations of the British people once again,” the spokesman said.

Labour Party Conference 2022
Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer leads tributes to Queen Elizabeth II as the national anthem is sung during the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

One of the changes to the party he was noting was how he opened the party’s conference with a tribute to the Queen in form of singing the national anthem.

Sir Keir’s strategy to boost growth includes a green prosperity plan to create one million new jobs in towns and cities across the country.

He was committing to begin this mission, to also include bringing down energy bills, raising living standards and tackling the climate crisis, within 100 days of forming a government.

To achieve this, he will say, requires “a different way of working”, developing “the biggest partnership between government, business and communities this country has ever seen”.

Sir Keir will argue “we cannot afford to miss out” on the opportunity to lead the world in renewable energy, electric vehicles and harnessing new hydrogen power.

Sir Kier was set to attack the Conservatives on the economy by saying: “What we’ve seen from the Government in the past few days has no precedent.

“They’ve lost control of the British economy – and for what? For tax cuts for the richest one per cent in our society.”

The Labour spokesman argued the party would borrow less than the Tories, after Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng revealed the biggest package of tax cuts for 50 years.

But the aide conceded that the party was accepting a higher level of borrowing than before the Chancellor’s package of tax cuts last Friday.

Sir Keir is pledging to reverse the abolition of the top rate of tax for the nation’s wealthiest, but was supporting the reduction of the bottom rate to 19p in the pound.

Labour Party Conference 2022
Party leader Sir Keir Starmer with shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves (Stefan Rosseau/PA)

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has said her fiscal rules set out that increased borrowing is permitted during national emergencies.

Sir Keir will declare that Labour will get the UK “out of this endless cycle of crisis with a fresh start, a new set of priorities and a new way of governing”.

“We should never be left cowering in a brace position, worrying about how to get through a winter. It’s time for Britain to stand tall again,” he will add.

The Conservatives said: “This is a yet another relaunch full of vacuous statements and empty promises, with no details.

“Starmer is a weak leader with no plan to grow the economy.”