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Sir Keir's speech offered very little for working-class people, union says

‘We needed to hear a Labour leader who is as angry as we are about the harm being done to our workers. We’re clearly not there yet,’ Unite's national political lead says

by our parliamentary reporter @TrinderMatt

SIR KEIR STARMER’S Labour conference speech offered very little for working-class people, Unite said today.

The Labour leader’s keynote address to delegates in Brighton was interrupted by hecklers angry at Sir Keir’s treatment of the party’s left and his failure to pursue more transformative policies. 

And Unite’s national political lead Rob MacGregor said: “If you’re a Unite member worried about the cost of living crisis, empty petrol pumps, abhorrent fire and rehire in our workplaces and the end of furlough just hours away, there wasn’t much for you in this speech.

“We needed to hear a Labour leader who is as angry as we are about the harm being done to our workers. We’re clearly not there yet.”

During the speech, Defend the Left protesters in the hall gave Sir Keir the red card by holding up sheets of red paper in defiance of a “McCarthyite purge” of socialists from the party, and shouts of “£15 an hour” were heard as Sir Keir praised NHS workers.

Despite appearing to back calls for a higher statutory minimum wage before becoming leader in April last year, Sir Keir’s now watered-down pledge of “at least” £10 an hour saw Andy McDonald resign from the shadow cabinet earlier this week.

After applauding the achievements of Labour’s Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, a shout of “learn from him” was heard, an apparent reference to the devolved leader’s unashamedly socialist politics.

At a Defend the Left demo outside the conference hall ahead of the main event, Jewish Voice for Labour co-chair Leah Levane said leftwingers are “not going anywhere.”

Ms Levane, who was barred from entering conference after a sudden auto-expulsion order, said the group would continue to fight for a “decent” Labour Party that prioritised working-class interests. 

Reacting to the speech, Unison said Sir Keir’s focus on education, public services, rights at work and mental health suggested he had a “serious plan for change,” while TSSA felt his call for a green new deal was “spot on.”

But the rail union did call for “more emphasis on public ownership,” after Sir Keir told delegates in Brighton he would only consider the move if it delivered value for money for taxpayers.

Retail union Usdaw said Labour’s new deal for workers shows the party is “ready for government,” while GMB said Sir Keir must unify the labour movement behind a common purpose — including a proper pay rise for key workers.

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