Can Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer win back former red-wall seats in the North West such as Bury?

ITV News North of England Correspondent Hannah Miller reports on the challenges Labour faces in trying to win back their traditional heartlands in the north of England

Amid the hustle and bustle of Bury town centre, Labour have to work hard to impress. The party lost Bury North in 2019 by just 105 votes, making this the most marginal Conservative seat in the country. A win here would be only the first brick back in the so-called ‘red wall’, and so far there’s little evidence that the new leadership is cutting through.

The Labour party lost Bury North in 2019 by just 105 votes. Credit: ITV News

Voters tell us they want to hear more about business support and the economy, housing and jobs - all issues this week’s conference has tried to address.

They’ve mostly heard of Keir Starmer, but know little about him (his previous stance on Brexit isn’t mentioned once). Several say he’s been too moderate throughout the pandemic.

That is perhaps a question of personality. The names Andy Burnham and Angela Rayner are more recognisable round here, their direct challenges to government have turned heads. The problem was summed up by former Labour MP James Frith, who previously suggested Keir Starmer needed to find some ‘swagger’.

In the aftermath of today’s speech he was pleased - convinced the Labour leader had made an emotional connection and set the party at least on the beginnings of a path to victory.

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Indeed, when voters are forced to listen, many like what they hear.

Watching today’s speech, group of sixth form students at Holy Cross college felt their perceptions had been challenged - surprised to learn that ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer had struggled as a child, impressed by his personal story and his resilience in the face of being heckled.

Sir Keir Starmer delivers his keynote speech at the Labour Party conference. Credit: PA

Away from the cut and thrust of the conference hall, the truth of whether this speech has won over voters will come not today or tomorrow, but in the months ahead. The challenge for Labour is how to strike a chord with people who are only half-listening.