Starmer vows to stoke the ‘fire of change’ with plan to build a new Britain

Sir Keir Starmer promised to “bulldoze” his way through restrictions to build a new Britain, with modern homes and businesses and an NHS “back on its feet”.

The Labour leader, who was confronted by a glitter-throwing protester before he could deliver his speech to the party’s conference, praised the spirit of the British people despite the “Tory project to kick the hope out of this country”.

With a general election expected next year and Labour enjoying double-digit poll leads, Sir Keir warned that the “dangerous” Tories would “scorch the earth just to get at us”.

And if he  did win the keys to No 10, the scale of the challenge would be immense compared with his predecessors.

Labour Party Conference 2023
A protester throws glitter over Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (Peter Byrne/PA)

Sir Keir put reforming the “restrictive planning system” at the core of his plan to secure economic growth.

The system was “a blockage that stops this country building roads, grid connections, laboratories, trainlines, warehouses, windfarms, power stations” and “an obstacle to the aspirations of millions”.

The plan to “get Britain building again” would “fight the blockers who hold a veto over British aspiration”.

The 1.5 million homes promised by would involve new development corporations with powers to cut through red tape and the creation of the “next generation of Labour new towns”.

He insisted his plans would not mean “tearing up the green belt” but building could take place on areas where that protection was “clearly ridiculous”.

Labour Party Conference 2023
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was left covered in glitter by the protest (Peter Byrne/PA)

The protester who stormed the stage was wearing a t-shirt which appears to tie him to a group called People Demand Democracy.

The man was removed from the conference building through a rear exit by two police officers before being placed in a police van.

Sir Keir set his sights on a “decade of national renewal” under Labour, suggesting he wants at least two terms in power.

In a nod to New Labour, Sir Keir said the country had “13 years of ‘things can only get better’ versus 13 years of ‘things have only got worse’”.

Sir Keir Starmer at conference
Sir Keir Starmer after his keynote speech in Liverpool (Peter Byrne/PA)

He told activists: “I have to warn you: our way back from this will be hard, but know this: what is broken can be repaired.

“What is ruined can be rebuilt. Wounds do heal. And ultimately that project – their project – will crash against the spirit of working people in this country. They are the source of my hope.”

Sir Keir set out the importance of helping people with the cost-of-living squeeze, claiming that Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party could not understand the way people were suffering.

Starmer at conference
Sir Keir pledged to rebuild Britain (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“Days out, meals out, holidays, the first things people cut back on. Picking up a treat in the supermarket just to put it back on the shelf.”

He added: “Conference, we have to be a government that takes care of the big decisions so working people have the freedom to enjoy what they love.”

But for “people like Rishi Sunak” they “cannot see the country before them, the walls of Westminster are so high”.

Sir Keir said there would be a “hard road” to reform the NHS, transforming it from a “sickness service” to one which focused on preventing illness.

“The Conservative Party that brought our NHS to its knees will put it in the ground,” he warned.

“We have got to get it back on its feet.”

He said Labour would create “a Britain built to last. Where working people are respected, crime is prosecuted, ambulances come, the minimum wage is enforced, infrastructure gets built, children feel safe in their classroom, business and workers unite in partnership”.

“No more bonuses for people pumping sewage into our rives. No more pensioners freezing while energy firms make record profits.

“No more government contracts awarded via the back door. No more cleaners mocked as they scrub mess off the walls of illegal parties in Westminster.”

Following shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves’ promise of iron discipline over the nation’s finances if Labour won power, Sir Keir said: “Fiscal responsibility is non-negotiable.”

But if investment can “kick-start growth” and “save money in the long-run” then “we must get on and do it”, he added.

Labour would create a national wealth fund to “share the risk” but “also share the rewards” of investment to “rebuild this country”.

Conservative Party chairman Greg Hands said Sir Keir “failed to say anything about how he would tackle illegal immigration”, “committed Labour to more borrowing, which would increase inflation” and would reverse the Government’s “more proportionate” approach to net zero.

“Sir Keir just offers more of the same short-term political decision-making of the last 30 years that has failed Britain – all glitter, no substance,” he said.

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