Keir Starmer: Exhausted UK must reject PM’s ‘pointless populist gestures’

Keir Starmer today said that Britain is “exhausted” as he launched Labour’s election campaign promising to change the “character of politics”

The Labour leader declared he no longer leads a party that pursues “gestures politics”, while accusing the prime minister of “pointless populist gestures”.

Claiming he helped send both Labour and Conservative politicians to jail in the wake of the 2009 expenses scandal, while serving as the director of public prosecutions, Starmer described the UK as “exhausted” by “the sex scandals, the expenses scandals, the waste scandals, the contracts for friends”.

He added: “Whether you’re thinking of voting Labour for the first time, whether you always vote Labour, or whether you have no intention of voting Labour whatsoever: my party will serve you.

“That’s who we are now, a changed Labour Party. No longer in thrall to gesture politics, no longer a party of protest, but a party of service.”

He argued that the only chance of “national renewal” is to “defeat this miserablist Tory project”.

He promised to “clean up politics” of sleaze, adding: “No more VIP fast lanes, no more kickbacks for colleagues, no more revolving doors between government and the companies they regulate.

“I will restore standards in public life with a total crackdown on cronyism: this ends now.”

“They can’t change Britain, so they try to undermine the possibility of change itself”, he said, adding: “pointless populist gestures and the low-road cynicism that the Tories believe is all you deserve”.

The Labour leader also attacked former Conservative prime ministers Boris Johnson and David Cameron, insisting politics is not a “hobby” for people who “enjoy the feeling of power”.

Ahead of Starmer’s speech today, Conservative Party chair Richard Holden said: “Nothing is more cynical and populist than a weathervane Labour leader who has a consistent track record of telling people whatever he thinks they want to hear on any given day.

“He was for a second Brexit referendum, then he wasn’t. He told Labour members when he was running to be leader he would nationalise industry and scrap tuition fees, but then dropped these policies as soon as the contest was over.

“And he says he opposes Jeremy Corbyn now despite campaigning twice to make him prime minister and calling him his ‘friend’.

“The only thing we know for certain about Keir Starmer is that he has a £28 billion black hole in his spending promises which will mean thousands of pounds of tax rises every year for families.”

Meanwhile, shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Pat McFadden this morning rejected the suggestion that Labour has failed to show policy detail under Keir Starmer’s leadership.

McFadden told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I go back a long way in politics and if I compare the list that I have just read out to you that will be in Keir Starmer’s speech today with the pledge card that we produced in the run up to the 1997 election, I would say we have set out more policy in advance of this election than we did in the past.

“I think we need to take head on the idea that we are not setting out policy.” is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.