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Labour Party Conference 2020 Sir Keir Starmer's conference speech a ‘missed opportunity to show substance’

SIR KEIR STARMER’S speech on the last day of Labour’s online conference today was criticised for lacking substance and policies and for attacking his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn.

The keynote speech was described by the mainstream press as an attempt to make a “clean break” with Mr Corbyn’s five years as leader.

In a direct attack on the party’s previous leadership, Mr Starmer said: “Never again will Labour go into an election not being trusted on national security, with your job, with your community and with your money.”

Mr Starmer thus appears to have ditched the pledge he gave at the start of his leadership that he would preserve many of the policies in Labour’s last general election manifesto.

He also sought to distance himself from his previous strong opposition to Brexit, which contributed to Labour’s defeat last December.

The Labour leader was introduced by Ruth Smeeth, a former MP who clashed with Mr Corbyn over anti-semitism allegations and who was exposed in diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks as a US informant labelled “strictly protect.” Her seat in Stoke – where 69 per cent of people voted Leave – fell to the Conservatives in December for the first time in its history.

Mr Starmer said: “The debate between Leave and Remain is over. We’re not going to be a party that keeps banging on about Europe.”

His speech was in stark contrast to his support for a second referendum when he was shadow Brexit secretary, before Labour went on to lose 59 seats last year.

The speech got a positive reception in parts of the labour movement, with retail workers’ union Usdaw saying he had “rightly talked about government incompetence holding Britain back.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said Mr Starmer “proves he’s in touch with what working families want.”

But Momentum co-chairman and Fire Brigades Union West Midlands regional secretary Andrew Scattergood said that Mr Starmer’s speech “was a missed opportunity to show substance.”

He added: “If Starmer wants to appeal to working-class voters, his pitch should be based on solidarity with the working class and defending their interests, not just slogans and platitudes.”

Meanwhile, activists in Doncaster were angered by Mr Starmer rocking up in the city “unannounced.”

Local Labour councillor Tosh McDonald – a former president of train drivers’ union Aslef – told the Morning Star: “We’d had a Labour group meeting the day before and talked about how people are not told what is going on and the need for transparency.

“He was in his blue suit with his hair all creamed, yet 200 yards from where he made the speech are some of the most deprived people in Doncaster. All he did was harp on about the past.”

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