'Change in the air' - Keir Starmer says Labour is ready to form next government ahead of conference
Labour has told ITV News political correspondent, Romilly Weeks, that it believes the government's mini budget presents it with an opportunity to shift public support in its favour
Sir Keir Starmer has claimed there is a “change in the air”, with Labour ready to form the next government after what he called 12 years of Tory failure.
The Labour leader set out plans for a green energy revolution - on the eve of the Labour conference opening in Liverpool - to boost economic growth, as a counter to the “trickle down” policies announced by Prime Minister Liz Truss and Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng.
Sir Keir used speeches to activists to denounce the “shower” in Downing Street, who he accused of “taking the p***” by offering tax cuts to the rich, while giving less support to poorer households.
He has pledged to double the amount of onshore wind, triple solar and more than quadruple offshore wind power by 2030, according to details announced in The Observer.
The creation of a net zero carbon, self-sufficient electricity network would lead to permanently lower energy bills and independence from nations such as Russia, Labour has said.
In addition, the move could create half a million jobs and make the UK the first country to have a zero-emission power system.
During a speech to activists, Sir Keir said the chancellor’s admission of Tory economic failure would be hung “around their necks” in the next election campaign.
He said: “There’s a change in the air. There’s an atmosphere, there’s a sense that Labour is ready to deliver.
“And don’t we need change after 12 years of this shower, 12 years of failure under this government, wages stagnant for 10 years, public services on their knees.”
It is already clear that the chancellor’s mini-budget, on Friday, will set the dividing lines for the next general election, with Sir Keir telling Labour supporters: “I didn’t agree with almost anything he said in that financial statement yesterday apart from his opening sentence, when he said there’s a ‘vicious cycle of stagnation’.
“He’s right about that and it’s their vicious cycle of stagnation. That is the verdict on 12 years of Tory government, a vicious cycle of stagnation and we need to hang that around their necks.”
The former director of public prosecutions said it was good when “somebody who is caught red handed actually pleads guilty”.
'Sir Keir Starmer will be acutely aware that this is his best chance to get people to listen to him'
The Labour leader’s relationship with union chiefs has been strained by his refusal to offer full-throated support for the wave of strikes triggered by the cost-of-living crisis.
But he insisted he would lead the “most pro-trade union Labour government you have ever seen” promising a Green Paper on workplace rights within 100 days of an election victory.
Earlier on Saturday, Sir Keir had accused the Tories of playing “casino economics” after Mr Kwarteng laid out a raft of tax cuts as part of his mini budget.
In a tweet he said: “Tory casino economics is gambling the mortgages and finances of every family in the country.
“Labour will secure growth for working people, that benefits all communities.
“My Government will deliver a fairer, greener future.”
Sir Keir's supporters hope he will use the four-day conference to capitalise on the unpopularity of the measures, during a time when the soaring cost of living is punishing households.
The government’s programme of lifting caps on bankers’ bonuses, cracking down on benefits and vast tax cuts, mainly benefiting the wealthy, has widened the ideological rift between the two main parties and given Labour plenty of ammunition.
Sir Keir will be expected to link Tory decisions to falling living standards and articulate a convincing vision to improve them.
The conference, which will formally begin on Sunday, is vital for Sir Keir to present himself as an alternative prime minister to Ms Truss, with the next general election expected in 2024.
This year’s event - only his second in-person conference since taking the job - is expected to feature less internal division, due to an exodus of left-wing members from the party.
But sources of tension might be found in debates over electoral reform and Sir Keir’s ban on frontbenchers joining strikers on picket lines - a move which cost Sam Tarry his shadow transport minister role in July.
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Some dissent is also possible when delegates sing the national anthem - for the first time in recent history - at the start of the gathering on Sunday.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has described the decision to sing the anthem as “very odd”.
After Sir Keir leads tributes to the late Queen, deputy leader Angela Rayner will open the conference with a pledge to end the Tory “procurement racket” and instead reward businesses that create local jobs, skills and regeneration.
She said: “Under the next Labour government there will be no hiding place for cronies and no corner for corruption. We’ll give the Tory sleaze merchants their marching orders, end handouts to tax havens and strike off failed providers.”
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) welcomed the plans, which include the mass insourcing of public contracts.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These proposals are much needed. Outsourcing has been a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money and led to a race to the bottom on workers’ pay and conditions.”
Other announcements will include a new Hillsborough Law to help prevent future injustices where there is state involvement.
Labour has pledged to set up specialist rape courts to speed up justice for victims and provide them with dedicated support.
The party said rape victims currently face a near three-year delay from reporting the crime, to the end of their attackers’ trials.
Only one in 100 suspected rapists is prosecuted, despite record-high numbers of complaints to the police.
Labour is also reviving its “tough on crime, tough on causes of crime” slogan as it announces plans to prevent child exploitation.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper told the Mirror ahead of the conference: “We will outlaw the grooming of children for crime because the gangs should not be able to exploit children and teenagers, and end up drawing them into potentially a life of crime and exploitation.”
Labour chair Anneliese Dodds urged her party to come together “to build that better future that our country deserves”.
She said: “We meet at a difficult time for Britain. Families and businesses are facing spiralling costs and the whole country is looking worried about a winter of uncertainty.
“Twelve years of Tory governments have left us with lower growth, lower investment and lower productivity. The only things that are going up are inflation, interest rates and bankers’ bonuses.
“But Labour has a plan for a fairer, greener future that will secure our economy and kickstart growth, that will put an end to the short-termism that has seen us lurch from crisis to crisis, that delivers energy security and brings down bills, that seizes the opportunities of the future and delivers for working people.”
The Conservatives’ conference will take place in Birmingham on October 2-5. The Liberal Democrats cancelled theirs as it fell within the period of mourning after the Queen’s death.