My election advice for Starmer? Offer a new Citizen’s Charter

A giveaway Budget in March preceding a general election in May against an improving economic backdrop: that, we’re told, is Downing Street’s favoured scenario. But still the election is Keir Starmer’s to lose, so here’s my start-the-year advice to him. Don’t bang on about Rishi Sunak being too rich; don’t make immigration the issue, because you have no solutions; don’t pretend to admire Margaret Thatcher; but do channel John Major – to whom you bear much closer comparison – and offer a new Citizen’s Charter. What? Isn’t that 1991 exercise in footling managerialism, forever associated with the ‘cones hotline’, remembered as a laughable failure? Maybe, but its intention was good:

Starmer faces tough questions as Labour’s conference begins

Keir Starmer began his big conference interview with the BBC talking about the story that has dominated the weekend – the Hamas attack on Israel. With Israel’s Ministry of Health suggesting at least 300 Israelis have been killed so far and the death toll of Palestinians rising, the Labour leader described the rocket fire and incursions from Gaza as an ‘appalling terrorist attack’ and said Israel had ‘every right to defend herself’. It will be a test for the new-look Labour party as to whether all MPs stay on message in the comings days in Liverpool. The party has long been divided on the Israel Palestine conflict and Starmer could

Liz Truss’s epic blandness

Liz Truss faced her first proper grilling at PMQs. Her debut, last month, was a softball affair but today Keir Starmer went in with both fists swinging. He asked her to endorse Jacob Rees-Mogg’s view that ‘turmoil in the markets has nothing to do with the Budget’. ‘What we have done,’ said Liz, pleasantly, ‘we have taken decisive action to make sure that people are not facing energy bills of £6,000 for two years.’ Sir Keir, already hopping mad, blasted her for ignoring his specific point. ‘Avoiding the question, ducking responsibility, lost in denial,’ he said viciously. He mentioned a young couple from Wolverhampton, Zac and Rebecca, who last week

Patrick O'Flynn

Don’t bet on the EFFing crisis bringing down Boris

Boris Johnson is taking one heck of a risk by making labour shortages a deliberate part of his economic strategy. That, at least, is the conventional wisdom about the Prime Minister in the wake of party conference season.  If things go well, then businesses will raise productivity by investing heavily in new machinery and more training for home-grown workers who currently lack key skills. And then all will be fine for Johnson. But if things go badly, labour shortages will merely fuel rampant inflation, while gaps on shop shelves will become endemic. Key groups of voters will turn on the PM, hastening his demise. I might have found this line of

Labour surge to 33-point lead over Tories

Today Kwasi Kwarteng attempted to calm concerns in his party over the fallout from the not-so-mini Budget – telling MPs: ‘We are one team and need to remain focused’.  That message is likely to face some resistance after the latest polling. Tonight the Times has published a new YouGov poll which gives Labour a 33-point lead. Yes, you read that right. It is thought to be the largest poll lead enjoyed by a political party since the late 1990s. It comes after a poll earlier this week gave Labour a 17-point lead. According to the survey, just 37 per cent of 2019 Conservative voters would stick with the party were an election

Isabel Hardman

Starmer’s speech will go down as a success

Keir Starmer gave a very long speech on the final day of Labour conference. It lasted an hour and a half, and had 17 standing ovations. But it will largely be remembered as the speech in which the Labour leader was repeatedly heckled by the hard left. These heckles worked hugely in his favour and made the speech all the better. Those shouting from the conference floor largely chose to do so at very inappropriate moments, including when he was talking about his mother being seriously ill in intensive care.  The heckles worked hugely in his favour and made the speech all the better Many other delegates turned on the woman


Watch: Starmer heckled during conference speech

Labour’s conference is finishing off in much the same way it started: with party members determined to shout at each other rather than take the fight to the Tories.  During Keir Starmer’s big speech in Brighton, the Labour leader has been repeatedly heckled – including as he spoke about his mother’s harrowing ordeal in the intensive care ward of an NHS hospital. One particularly worked-up Labour party member took to her feet to vent her feelings about Starmer: Starmer responded by asking: ‘Shouting slogans or changing lives, conference?’ Early on in the speech, the Labour leader was heckled for his Brexit policy and over his refusal to back demands for

Isabel Hardman

How will Keir Starmer deal with hecklers during his big speech?

What does Keir Starmer have planned for his conference speech, due to begin shortly? Not so much the words in his script, but what he plans to say if – when – he’s heckled.  Starmer has been taking quite a Neil Kinnock stance over the past few days, antagonising the hard left with his rule changes for leadership elections and refusal to back a £15-an-hour minimum wage. And you can’t channel Kinnock without expecting a few heckles in your conference speech. Those around the leader see this conference as being the last hurrah of the left LabourList‘s Sienna Rodgers reports that Momentum has instructed its delegates to heckle about the wage

The problem with nationalising energy

Is nationalisation the vote-winner which Keir Starmer believes it to be? We will find out in due course, but my hunch is that the British public as a whole care a lot less about who owns the train carriages they ride in and the power stations which generate their electricity than Labour MPs do.  No one who remembers British Rail will be under any illusions that public ownership is a panacea What they care about rather more, surely, is whether their trains arrive on time and whether their lights stay on. No one who remembers British Rail will be under any illusions that public ownership is a panacea for a

Read: Keir Starmer’s full speech to 2022 Labour conference

Thank you, conference. It’s great to be here in Liverpool. After all the changes we’ve made, all the hard work we’ve put in, finally we are seeing the results we want. Yes, conference, we can say it at last: Arsenal are top of the league. But before I begin, I want to address something important. This is our first conference in Liverpool since 2018. And that means it’s our first conference since this city’s call for Justice for the 96 became Justice for the 97. For too long this city has been let down. So, when Labour wins the next election, one of my first acts as Prime Minister will

Isabel Hardman

Andy McDonald’s resignation spells trouble for Starmer

Andy McDonald has resigned from Labour’s shadow cabinet after Keir Starmer refused to back raising the Minimum Wage to £15 an hour. In his resignation letter, he writes:  ‘Yesterday, your office instructed me to go into a meeting to argue against a National Minimum Wage of £15 an hour and against Statutory Sick Pay at the Living Wage. This is something I could not do.’ More damagingly, he adds:  Starmer has set great store by trying to keep the Labour party together. ‘I joined your frontbench team on the basis of the pledges that you made in the leadership campaign to bring about unity within the party and maintainability our


Labour’s mask hypocrisy

It’s day three of Labour conference and proceedings are in full swing. Whether it’s one of Andy Burnham’s 11 fringe events or yet another interminable motion in the conference hall, the rooms of Brighton have been packed to the rafters with Labour’s long-suffering members.  Clearly Covid spreads in teaching settings but has the grace to stop at the doors of conference jollies Yet walking around various venues Mr S was surprised to see just how few attendees were wearing their masks in poorly ventilated rooms, with no windows or open doors. With Covid cases still low, normally such a state of affairs would pass without comment. But Labour has made

Revealed: Labour’s tactics to deal with Truss

Keir Starmer tonight told the weekly parliamentary Labour party meeting that ‘we will never underestimate Liz Truss’. The Labour leader added that ‘she is a talented politician who has got to the top through hard work and determination’ and that ‘she will do whatever it takes to keep them in power’. He warned that ‘the polls might tighten and her plans might create some buzz’. It was a reminder to the party, which often struggles to accept female Tory leaders, not to fall into the trap of mocking Truss or feasting too much on the Tory civil war. How will Labour approach the new PM? Starmer will be asking her

Angela Rayner ally sacked by Starmer

Sam Tarry, who joined today’s picket line at Euston and gave various interviews from there, has been sacked from the Labour shadow transport team and the front bench. However, Tarry has not been sacked for being on the picket line, but for making unauthorised media appearances. Labour’s line is that this isn’t about appearing on a picket line. Members of the frontbench sign up to collective responsibility. That includes media appearances being approved and speaking to agreed frontbench positions.  This morning, Tarry implied that rail workers would not have gone on strike under a Labour government as they would have been offered a more generous pay deal. Given that Tarry

Is Boris Johnson planning an emergency Budget?

Boris Johnson is running out of time to produce things the Tories can show the voters at the next election. The theme of his Queen’s Speech – if there was one – was an attempt to fix that. That next election campaign was countered by Keir Starmer in the chamber this afternoon. The main focus was on the cost-of-living crisis and how much worse things are going to get. Funnily enough, Starmer didn’t mention the members of the government who’d broken Covid rules The Labour leader repeatedly accused this government of not being ‘up to the challenge’, with the Tories producing only a ‘thin address bereft of ideas or purpose, without a guiding

Keir’s Centrist Dad reshuffle is the sign of a decadent party

Sir Keir Starmer has rarely enjoyed such good press as he’s received for overhauling his frontbench. His Centrist Dad reshuffle saw promotions for soft-left pin-ups like Yvette Cooper, David Lammy, Wes Streeting and Lucy Powell, while Corbynista Cat Smith got told to clear her desk. It was a pitch-perfect signal to Labour moderates that they were getting their party back — not least the crucial newspaper columnist demographic — who got to see all their princes return across the water at once. Well, almost. If Sir Keir had really wanted to earn some sweet, sweet commentariat love he’d have arranged a by-election and the first available flight from JFK to Heathrow for

Starmer’s reshuffle goes wrong again

Keir Starmer would have been hoping for a case of second time lucky today as he reshuffles his front bench again, following a botched attempt in the aftermath of the local election results. Back then, the Labour leader got off to a bad start when he tried to move his deputy Angela Rayner from one of her briefs. She refused and then the whole reshuffle ground to a halt. In the end, Rayner ended up with more jobs than she started. This time around there are similar hints of trouble. Rayner has spent her morning giving a speech on Labour’s plan to clamp down on outside interests (my piece from earlier this month explains

Starmer is finally getting the hang of PMQs

No prime minister since Tony Blair enjoys being in power as much as Boris. The notion that he might be kicked out by a nameless gang of cabinet lightweights is fanciful. But it makes for grabby headlines. Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer can sense that his star is on the rise. And he’s improving. At PMQs he asked shorter questions and delivered a couple of nifty satirical thrusts that inspired his MPs. Early on, he tilted his head towards the Tory benches which were better attended than last Wednesday. ‘I see they’ve turned up this week.’ Cue howls of mirth from Labour. Moments later, he lobbed this banger at Boris. ‘I

How the far left killed itself

The Labour right is as happy as I have seen it in a decade. It thinks it has its party back, and the far left has rolled itself into a ball and tossed itself into the dustbin of history. This week’s media coverage of the fights and back stabbings at the conference is missing a fundamental shift in power. By making it impossible for a minority of party members to trigger a deselection, Labour has freed its MPs from the need to spend a large part of their careers talking to their comrades (friendly or not), rather than persuading the public that at some point it might make a refreshing