Labour Conference 2021: Keir Starmer outlines plan to win back lost seats, like those in North East

Sir Keir Starmer has addressed the 2021 Labour Party Conference with a speech marred by hecklers from within his own party.

The Labour leader said he was putting the prime minister "on notice" when setting out his vision for the UK, as he attacked the government for a "fuel crisis, a pay crisis, a goods crisis and a cost of living crisis" - all happening "at the same time".

The 89-minute speech received a standing ovation but was interrupted by numerous hecklers who shouted "shame" and complained about Brexit.

One person shouted "£15" - a reference to Middlesborough MP Andy McDonald's resignation from the shadow cabinet, attacking the leader for his refusal to back a minimum wage increase above £10.

In the speech, Starmer alluded to ways the party intends to regain the so-called 'Red Wall' seats - like those in the North East - lost in the 2019 General Election.

Starmer unveiled a new slogan: 'Work. Care. Equality, Security'. But how does he plan on delivering for people in the North East and North Yorkshire if his party returns to power?

Shrinking educational 'attainment gap'

Students in our region receive some of the lowest A-level grades in the country - an education gap that has widened during the pandemic.

The percentage of A-level entries in 2021 awarded the top grades (A* or A) by each region:

  • North-east England 39.2%

  • North-west England 41.4%

  • Yorkshire & the Humber 41.1%

  • West Midlands 40.9%

  • East Midlands 41.3%

  • Eastern England 44.8%

  • South-west England - 44.7%

  • South-east England - 47.1%

  • London - 47.9%

In his speech, Starmer said 200,000 children grew up in areas without a single primary school rated 'good' or 'outstanding'.

To combat this, Starmer pledged to reform inspection body Ofsted to focus more on improving struggling schools.

His party would launch “the most ambitious school improvement plan in a generation”. It would involve a new "curriculum for tomorrow”, with digital skills considered key.

He said: “We need to ensure that every child emerges from school ready for work, and ready for life.

“We will reinstate two weeks of compulsory work experience and we will guarantee that every young person gets to see a careers advisor."

Green New Deal, scientific innovation and technological investment

"Don't forget it. Labour. The party of working people," Starmer urged voters. He spoke extensively about his father's background as a toolmaker.

In an apparent appeal to former 'Red Wall' areas, Starmer stated a need to revive "towns that were the crucibles of the original Industrial Revolution."

Starmer promised a 'Green New Deal' to battle against climate change and unemployment, saying renewable energy infrastructure should be manufactured in the UK.

He also committed "a minimum of 3% of GDP in science and technology".

Continuing on the theme of green infrastructure, Starmer announced that a Labour government would upgrade 19 million homes to reach a minimum "Band-C" energy efficiency level, providing grants for low-income households and low-interest loans for others to achieve this.

He said this would save households £400 a year in bills on average.

Social care and poverty

Starmer strongly criticised the Conservative's "levelling up" credentials.

“Under the tories, wages have fallen in every English region," he said. "Local government has been cut to the bone. Nearly half a million more children live in poverty and so do half a million more pensioners. For the first time in decades, life expectancy has stalled. 

“And after all that, the Tories want us to believe that levelling up is more than a slogan. 

“Well, let me offer the Conservative Party a lesson in levelling up, I suggest they take a look at our record the last time we were in government," he continued.

"Hospital waits down, GCSE results up, 44,000 more doctors, 89,000 new nurses, child poverty down 1 million, pensioner poverty down 1 million, rough sleepers down 75%, a National Minimum Wage and the OECD said that no nation had a bigger rise in social mobility than Britain."


On healthcare, the Holborn and St Pancras MP said his ambition is to shift the priority for the NHS away from emergency care to prevention in order to make Britain “the healthiest nation on earth”.

The Labour leader said the NHS needs to be properly funded but it also needs to change so that it can deal with an ageing public, adding: “I want Britain to be the healthiest nation on earth.

He said Labour’s health policy would also tackle mental ill health, describing it as “one of the urgent needs of our time”.

“Labour will guarantee that support will be available in less than a month,” he said.

He promised to provide mental treatment within a month for all people in England who require it and to hire 8,500 more specialist mental health staff, which he said would provide an extra million people a year with help.


After being introduced on stage by Stephen Lawrence's mother Doreen, Starmer said Labour would "strengthen legal protections for victims of crime", will tackle record levels of knife crime and reduce anti-social behaviour.

He added: "We will fast-track rape and serious sexual assault cases and we will toughen sentences for rapists, stalkers and domestic abusers."

Conservative politicians are giving their reactions to Starmer's speech.