View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
23 September 2019

Keir Starmer turns left and makes his leadership pitch

The shadow Brexit secretary strayed from his brief and stressed his Corbynite bona fides on economic and foreign policy.

By Patrick Maguire

The euphemisms “thinly-veiled” and “wide-ranging” could have been invented for the speech Keir Starmer gave to Labour conference this evening. As anyone with a pulse could have predicted, the shadow Brexit secretary was met with rapturous applause as he stressed – repeatedly – that as far as he was concerned, a vote for Labour meant a vote for Remain.

But more surprising was the alacrity with which Starmer strayed deliberately from his brief. 

As well as hitting familiar notes on the virtues of Remain, he went out of his way to sound enthusiastically Corbynite on inequality and the economy (“the status quo is bust…we need a fundamental shift in power, wealth, and opportunity”), domestic policy (“Only a Labour government will end child poverty…the moral disgrace of homelessness…end insecure work”) and climate (“Only a Labour government will tackle the climate emergency, so we can look at the next generation in the eye and say ‘we did not let you down’”).

Starmer’s remarks on foreign policy were also infused with intriguingly dovish rhetoric. “We profoundly believe in peace, reconciliation, human rights and collaboration across borders,” he said. He also stressed that Labour should not just Remain but lead the effort to reform the EU, a favourite theme of the pro-European wing of the Corbynite left.

Taken together, it all looked rather like a calculated attempt to do two things: prove to the PLP that Starmer could speak authoritatively and emotively on issues other than Europe (a common complaint from MPs who doubt his lawyerly mien and forensic approach to his shadow ministerial brief necessarily qualify him for the leadership), and prove to the membership that he was a genuine enthusiast for and believer in their worldview.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Will it work? Starmer consistently tops polls of members when they are asked who they think would make a good successor to Corbyn, and they gave him a hero’s welcome this evening. But the fact that the speech was then followed by a conclusive vote against Starmer’s Brexit position, driven by deference to Corbyn and suspicion of those attempting to outflank it on Europe, suggests his gambit might not be as fruitful as he hopes.

Content from our partners
Future proofing the NHS
Where do we get the money to fix the world's biggest problems? – with ONE
Labour's health reforms can put patients first

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU