Sir Keir blends self-deprecating humour with sharp criticism of Tory rule

Sir Keir Starmer’s keynote conference speech combined hard politics, bleak assessments of the state of the country and Labour’s vision for national renewal – but humour also played a part.

He began with a self-deprecating reference to previous speeches, telling his audience that he knew what they were thinking.

“Please, please, please – no more Arsenal jokes,” he added.

Sir Keir soon set his sights on Rishi Sunak, mocking the Prime Minister for keeping a “close watch on the cost-of-living crisis – from the vantage point of his short-haul helicopter”.

Mr Sunak’s defeat to Liz Truss in the Conservative leadership contest was then ridiculed as he segued into her being compared to a lettuce by the Daily Star newspaper during her short-lived stint in No 10.

Memories of idyllic family trip to Windermere were later recalled by Sir Keir.

As he ate fish and chips, he said his wife Vic had the plant burger. “You see we don’t focus group everything,” he added.

Sir Keir then showed he is not averse to some clever wordplay, as he lamented what he saw as the Conservatives’ tendency to turn “back to the comfort of the easy answer”.

“Back to trickle-down nonsense, that sees wealth trickle-up and jobs trickle-out,” he added.

Labour Party Conference 2023
The shadow cabinet and conference audience were treated to some jokes as well as dark imagery from Sir Keir Starmer during his keynote conference speech (Peter Byrne/PA)

Ending a list of professions that would be boosted across the country, he mentioned “toolmakers in Hull”.

“My Dad would have loved that,” he said.

As his speech drew to a close, the Labour leader raised his party’s recent victory in Rutherglen and Hamilton West.

He said the Scottish National Party would “regroup” but continue to “wave away the lessons of history” and “try to present nationalism as a bridge to the world”.

“We have to remind them it can barely provide a ferry to the Hebrides,” he quipped, before immediately pivoting to darker subject matter as he accused the Conservatives of being “prepared to scorch the earth just to get at us”.

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