Keir Starmer delivered his first-ever in-person speech as Labour leader at the annual party conference in Brighton last week. During his 90-minute address to members and non-members of the party, he mentioned various ideas, personal experiences and a few jokes.

At the start of his speech, Starmer thanked his shadow cabinet and the voters voting for the party whilst also welcoming back members that had left the party like Louis Ellman. And to ease the nerves a little more, he mentioned Arsenal’s win against Tottenham, which received a few laughs and a few groans. After sending his thank you’s to those who supported the party, Starmer was critical of how Boris Johnson has handled the current fuel crisis. 

Keir Starmer’s conference speech in Brighton 2021. Courtesy of the Labour Party’s Youtube channel

The Labour leader quoted the prime minister’s words at the United Nations, where he said that “someone else will clean up the mess we make.” In response to this, Starmer made a rallying call that the prime minister “either get a grip or get out of the way and let us clear up this mess,” which received a big round of applause. He continued and suggested that the United Kingdom was facing a “big moment” regarding the current fuel crisis and wanted to offer a path where Labour “addresses the chronic problems revealed by Covid, with the kindness and the togetherness that got us through.”

The speech from the Labour leader wasn’t all political, as he touched on a few personal experiences like his mum having Still’s disease and reflecting on his time as a barrister. But, it wasn’t all plain sailing for the leader of the party.

Starmer was heckled a few times during his speech, showcasing how not everyone is supportive of the current leadership. He responded to these heckles by saying that “at this time on a Wednesday, it’s normally the Tories that are heckling me, it doesn’t bother me then, and it doesn’t bother me now. After his speech, many people were divided over if Starmer’s speech was a roaring success or not. Owen Jones was quick to suggest that Starmer was dishonest, and that the party has no future under his leadership in a recent opinion piece for the Guardian. Meanwhile, Stephen Kinnock felt that Starmer’s speech had been a real turning point for the party.  

The question is, what do our journalists at Common Sense think of Starmer’s conference speech?

Was it a roaring success, or did it fall flat?

Keir Starmer’s conference speech is Labour’s portfolio, and people should get behind it!

All eyes were on Keir Starmer and how he would deliver his plan of action to followers and non-followers of the Labour Party. Not everyone agrees with the former barrister and what he is doing, but Starmer did a decent job conducting himself throughout the conference and is clear on where he wants to take the party. He is now showing strength, integrity, and party leadership, which his predecessor lacked in all three categories.

During his speech, Starmer made a few jokes, was vulnerable about his mum, and finally showed that he wasn’t this dry robot. But Starmer did something even more crucial- show that he stood for something and wasn’t a person that sat on the fence. This includes having a plan to fight climate change, providing ways to address the social care crisis, and how he would restore the party’s worker ethos. Whatever you want to say about Starmer and how he acts, you cannot say that he is not standing for anything. He is now focusing on the bread-and-butter issues that Labour has forgotten about over the last few years, like crime, health and the economy.   

As the dust settles in Brighton, this is the time for Starmer to play his cards right, keep up this momentum from the conference and use his speech as Labour’s portfolio for the public. Starmer might not be the ideal leader for everyone, but he has a plan of action that any voter would get behind, despite what the far left, the Corbynistas and the Guardian columnists are saying. Divided parties never win elections, and that is why people should stop jeering, stop writing ranty opinion pieces in the Guardian, and pull their boots straps and support Starmer. His speech should be met with roaring applause rather than awkward silence.

One would be forgiven for thinking that Starmer’s conference speech were full of empty words. It’s undeniable – and oddly refreshing – that he seems to have realised the issues regarding Labour’s increasing irrelevance in the political arena, and wants to renew the Labour Party for a 21st century Britain.

However, it did not always come across that way. It’s undeniable that the Labour Party is in the midst of a civil war to regain its identity, with Starmer seeming to be the light at the end of the tunnel. This fight in and of itself is enough of a challenge for the party, let alone trying to fight for power and political relevance. It still has the accusations of anti-Semitism to tend to and the purge of ‘Corbynistas’ is well underway.

It seems Labour is a party in denial. Even his pledge to ‘Make Brexit Work’ implies a sense of reluctance to accept the democratic result. It’s as if he – and Labour by extension – considers Brexit to be nothing more than a nuisance; a relegation from one of the most historic events in British history to a thorn in Labour’s side in their quest to regain power.

Yes, it is also a question of power. Starmer himself said that ‘winning the next election is more important than unity’. But how can a party that is so divided go toe-to-toe with the Conservatives? A house divided against itself cannot stand.

It cannot be denied that Starmer stands for something, but it seems as if it’s too little, too late for the Labour Party. The core issues that people are concerned about – immigration, crime and policing and the economy – are being acknowledged, but it will take a very, very long time to regain the trust that has been lost from its base.

If Starmer is the right man to take Labour forward – and that’s a very big if – he has a long way to go before he has any chance at the keys to No.10.

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Hamish Hallett is a journalist/broadcaster part of the scribe team at Common Sense. He has a deep interest in current affairs, both domestically and internationally, which you can see through his written work and his podcast called A Spoonful of News. Hamish loves to understand what makes people tick and get to the root of today's issues. Away from the network, Hamish has a profound interest in reading books, keeping active, travailing, meeting new and exciting people and controversially having ham and pineapple on pizza.

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Aaron Fenton-Hewitt is an aspiring journalist and political commentator. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Film from London Metropolitan University, and a Master's in Writing for Creative and Professional Practice from Middlesex University. He wishes to continue his academic career, with a PhD in Politics or related field.

Aaron is also a freelance photographer, an avid foodie and an Arsenal supporter.

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