Britain’s Starmer insists Labor is fit to govern as crisis rocks government

Labor leader Keir Starmer will argue on Tuesday that his once-fragmented party is ready to lead Britain out of the economic crisis under the ruling Conservatives.

At the annual conference of the main opposition party, Starmer will say the Tories and new Prime Minister Liz Truss have “lost control of the UK economy”.

He will also insist that Labor – out of power for 12 years and plagued by ideological infighting lately – is now the party of “solid money”, according to his office.

His standard speech comes at a time when Britain is grappling with decades of high inflation, a looming recession and the pound’s plunge to unprecedented lows against the US dollar this week.

The pound’s plunge was attributed to a mini-budget unveiled by Finance Minister Kwasi Kwarteng on Friday, which cut a range of taxes – including for the highest earners – and increased public debt.

Despite the gloomy economic picture, the Labor Party base is rallying in optimistic mood. The party is more united than it has been in recent years and has a comfortable lead in the polls.

“I think it’s very positive here – we’re united,” Mary Stiles, 75, a former councilwoman from central England, told AFP.

“We know we can do it,” she said of regaining power. “We have to do what (former British Prime Minister) Tony Blair did in 1997: we have to go back in and change things.”

– royalists –

Starmer, 60, took over Labor leadership from radical Jeremy Corbyn in April 2020.

He struggled to break through with the British public during the Covid pandemic. But the financial crisis and the Tories’ troubles under scandal-plagued Boris Johnson have revived Labour.

The latest Survation poll found Labor would win a 56-seat parliamentary majority if general elections were held today, comfortably overturning the 80 majority Johnson won against Corbyn in 2019.

The next election is scheduled for January 2025 at the latest.

Starmer has brought Labor back to the center after the gaping splits between his left and right wings seen under Corbyn.

In an unusual move, participants at this year’s conference in Liverpool, north-west England, on Sunday sang the national anthem “God save the King” to images of the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Fears that the transfer would be marred by boos or heckling from the pro-Corbyn left proved unfounded.

In his speech, Starmer will welcome the fact that Labor is once again “the political wing of the British people”, in a clear reference to Blair.

– ‘Adult’ –

not to reverse the Conservatives’ “hard Brexit” deal that took Britain out of the European Union’s single market and customs union.

He’s also tried to avoid culture war issues revolving around gender and racial politics, instead sticking to core issues around business, healthcare, and crime.

He will promise a new “green prosperity plan” that will prioritize economic growth alongside tackling climate change.

But simmering is the uneasiness of the party’s traditional union supporters over support for public and private sector workers who are on strike over pay.

Starmer has prevented his top team from appearing on pickets and has been less supportive of the strikes than some on the party’s left.

The moves have drawn criticism from some unions, with predictions they could now cut some of the millions of pounds they give to the party annually.

But an uneasy truce appears to have prevailed during the conference, and union leaders are tempering their criticism.

Some party members supported Starmer’s stance on unions, arguing there was a need to show Labor was ready to go back to government.

“The adults are back in town,” said Angela Briggs, 69, a retired school principal from Oxfordshire in southern England, attending the conference for the first time.