Sir Keir Starmer said he would get “tough” with Labour MPs who stand in the way of his plans to rip through planning red tape to build homes and modern infrastructure.
The Labour leader, who has promised to “bulldoze” his way to a new Britain, said he would stand up to his own party in order to achieve his goal.
After his keynote conference speech was interrupted by a glitter-throwing protester, Sir Keir said he would not let an “idiot” derail his efforts to get into power and begin a 10-year programme of reform.
He told Times Radio he was confident he could hit his house-building target, which would include plans for the next generation of new towns.
The Labour leader said he had been “bombproofing” the party’s policies in the past year: “Some people have interpreted those shifts of position as somehow a weakness – actually it’s a strength to say: ‘I will not put anything before the electorate after what they’ve been through, which I do not think is credible, that can’t be delivered.’”
He added: “In five years’ time, if we’re lucky enough to get elected next time to serve, the electorate will have their chance to judge whether we are delivering on what we’ve said. I’m confident we will. But of course the electorate will have to judge.
“But what I don’t want to do and didn’t want to do yesterday was to pretend that all of this can be done in one five-year term – the damage that’s been done to our country is huge. And that’s why I talked in terms of a 10-year project of national renewal.”
Sir Keir’s position could mean riding roughshod over local objections to major developments, with the Labour leader confronted with his own opposition to HS2 because of the impact of the Euston development on his constituency.
“You will always get – and quite understandably and quite rightly – individual MPs standing up for the communities in their patch,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
“The role of government is obviously different. The role of government is to deliver on big projects. And we’re going to have to get that balance right.”
Asked if he would be prepared to tell people that their concerns were being ignored, Sir Keir said: “Yes. We’re going to have to do that. Now, that’s not going to be a crude exercise. I think one of the problems we have is that planning is at the moment very, very localised.
“There isn’t the ability to look across a wider area and say: ‘Where would the best place be for this development? Where could we have a new town?’ And so we need to bulldoze through it, but we also need to be pragmatic about how we do it.
“But I’m going to be clear: we aren’t going to have to do things which previous governments haven’t done because otherwise we’ll end up where we are now, which is talking about housing – this has been the story of the last 13 years – but not actually getting very much done.”
He said the drive to build more homes was “absolutely about social justice” and his speech was an attempt to reach the “inner soul of the British public”.
The start of Sir Keir’s address to the Labour conference – one of the main chances to set out his vision to the country ahead of a general election expected next year – was disrupted by a protester calling for a proportional voting system.
The Labour leader said he had “ruthlessly” transformed his party in the first phase of the job, then had to “expose the Tories and the SNP as not fit to govern”. But he has now set out on the third stage, which is “setting out the positive case” for change after a “decade of decline”.
He told Times Radio that when he saw the protester mount the Liverpool stage, “my overwhelming feeling was: ‘I am not going to let you ruin four years of hard work in this party.’”
Asked if he feared for his safety, he said: “I just wanted to get on with the speech and that’s why I rolled up my sleeves and got on with it.
“I didn’t want that idiot to interrupt that and I don’t want that idiot to dominate what I’ve got to say today.”
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting used his speech to warn the NHS must “modernise or die” in the face of an “existential” crisis.
He warned the NHS faces bankruptcy unless it is overhauled and set out plans to shift its focus from hospitals to providing more care in the community and from tackling sickness to preventing illness in the first place.
“It falls to us, the party that founded the NHS 75 years ago, to rescue, rebuild and renew the health service today,” he said.
“Labour’s reform agenda will turn the NHS on its head.”
Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson addressed the gathering’s final day to pledge that Labour would tackle the “chronic cultural problem with maths” by making sure it is taught better to children from a younger age.