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9 January 2023

Keir Starmer quips that he fears bumping into Rishi Sunak on holiday

The Labour leader was in comedic form as he derided the Prime Minister for booking Labour’s venue for his New Year speech.

By Rachel Wearmouth

Keir Starmer poked fun at Rishi Sunak after the struggling Conservative Party tried to steal the limelight from Labour by booking the same venue for the Prime Minister’s New Year “reset” speech. Starmer, speaking to the Parliamentary Labour Party in Westminster this evening, said he would “take it as a compliment”.

The PM’s address, in which he set out five election promises, took place 24 hours before Starmer’s speech last week, which many saw as Sunak starting the long build-up to the next general election.

“For weeks they’ve been hyping up the Prime Minister’s speech, then when they got wind of our one they hastily booked the same venue as us and tried to spike our guns,” Starmer told Labour MPs and peers. “I take it as a compliment. But I’ll tell you what, I won’t be telling the Prime Minister where I’m taking Vic [Starmer’s wife] on holiday.”

Starmer opened the meeting by emphasising that this is Labour’s 13th year in opposition but celebrated the election of the new MPs Samantha Dixon (City of Chester) and Andrew Western (Stretford and Urmston), who won by-elections in 2022.

He said that Sunak – whose five pledges to the nation included halving inflation, which the Bank of England has already forecast, and reducing NHS waiting times, which could barely be worse – was “setting the bar so low for his promises that he could hardly fail to flop over it”.

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By contrast he said that Labour was setting out a “plan to get Britain out of the brace position we’ve been in for too long” and he referenced his “Take Back Control Bill”, which would radically devolve power from Westminster. “This year is going to be all about setting out that plan,” Starmer said. “So when people ask ‘what is Labour for?’, our answer is simple, ‘To give Britain its future back.’

“We know the work will be tough, no one here doubts that but we know the prize at the end is massive, the chance to add ’24 to ’45 and ’97 in the history books, the chance to rebuild our country, the chance of the greener, fairer Britain our people deserve.”

[See also: Wes Streeting’s plan for the NHS signals a bolder Labour in 2023]

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