Labour: Keir Starmer's conference speech to 'demonstrate' Jeremy Corbyn years are over

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is keen to show the party has changed since he took over from Jeremy Corbyn. Credit: PA

Sir Keir Starmer's keynote speech to the Labour conference will mark a break from the past, party sources say.

On Wednesday, the leader of the opposition will outline policies a Labour government would bring in, including plans to recruit thousands of new teachers, put in place new targets for mental health treatment, and build health hubs for children in every community.

Labour sources suggested that while Starmer would not actually mention his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn by name, the speech would be used to offer a “demonstration of the way the party has changed”.

The source said the party leader would make clear that “Labour will never again go into an election with a manifesto that isn’t a serious plan for government”, in comments that will be widely seen as an attack on the 2019 offer.

Speaking to delegates in person for the first time, Starmer is expected to say: “I see the government lost in the woods with two paths beckoning. One path leads back where we came from. None of the lessons of Covid are heeded. The divisions and flaws that were brutally exposed by the pandemic all worsen.

“But there is another path down which we address the chronic problems revealed by Covid with the kindness and the togetherness that got us through.”

A spokesperson said the speech would include policy proposals but with an emphasis on ensuring they are “costed, practical” and in line with new “fiscal rules”.

There will be £440 million pledged for mental health – guaranteeing treatment in less than a month under new NHS targets, investing more in children’s services and for a radical expansion of the workforce.

Starmer will also promise to place state education at the heart of Labour policy, as he promises to remove charitable status from the independent sector, and then using the money to recruit many more teachers.

A spokesperson said the speech – much of which was written by Starmer himself – would be an optimistic vision for Britain, aiming to contrast Starmer’s “competence” with a government who they accused of being “strong on slogans” but “light on policy”.

“We know the shine is coming off Boris,” added the spokesperson.

ITV News understands that internal polling and focus groups carried out by Labour are suggesting frustration with the prime minister that the opposition hopes to capitalise on.

Starmer will add: “Too often in the history of this party our dream of the good society falls foul of the belief that we will not run a strong economy. But you don’t get one without the other. And under my leadership we are committed to both. I can promise you that under my leadership Labour will be back in business.

Ahead of the speech Robert Peston asked: 'Keir Starmer, in one sentence, who are you?'

“The questions we face in Britain today, are big ones. How we emerge from the biggest pandemic in a century. How we make our living in a competitive world. The climate crisis. Our relationship with Europe. The future of our union.

“These are big issues. But our politics is so small. So our politics needs to grow to meet the scale of the challenge.”

Asked about the surprise victory of a social democratic party in Germany over conservatives, the spokesperson said it was a sign that “opinion polls a long way out from an election are not a good indicator of what voters are going to do”.

Labour still trails the Tories in most polls and would need to win an additional 123 seats at a general election to win a majority of one.

The source added: “Keir’s speech will be noticeably different from what you’ve heard from Labour in recent years. It will be more optimistic, more focused on the future, more outward looking.”