The Labour Party edge to a 17% lead in the polls and the Conservative’s support is falling faster than the pound – the scene couldn’t be more perfectly set for Labour. It is against this backdrop that Sir Keir Starmer prepares to address the Labour Party conference – in person – for only the second time, in what is expected to be a game changer in the party’s search for power.
Just three years ago, Starmer had taken over a Labour Party at its lowest ebb in nearly eight decades. They had fallen to their worst defeat since 1935 and the path to power looked forever blocked. But a series of catastrophic events has destroyed the goodwill that the Conservative Party had, and Starmer has transformed the image of the Labour Party. Labour Party conference 2022, appears to be the final act, before they take power.
Charting this path was difficult for Starmer, and not without resistance. He was heckled by members on the left wing of the party during his 2021 address – which he shut down with a now well-known quip. He also spent much of the early period of his leadership ridding the party of anti-Semitism and tackling some of the most hard-left views in the party, in a bid to make them ‘electable’.
Now, with a clear lead in the polls, he faces the next challenge. To solidify the support and offer a policy platform that proves they are ready to govern. This conference is the attempt to do that.
The first two days were underscored by a swathe of policy announcements, including the Shadow Transport Secretary, Louise Haigh, announcing a plan to renationalise the railways – a point of internal contention in recent months.
Starmer was also engaged in a fireside-style chat with ex-footballer, and keen Labour Party supporter Gary Neville. The relaxed conversation seemed impossible months ago, when Neville was criticising Starmer for not taking on the Tories enough. Now, the party seems much more united.
The party even sang ‘God Save the King’ at the opening day of conference, something that would have seemed impossible just a matter of years ago, with former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn describing it as weird. However, the move went down well in the media and shows a greater seriousness in the Starmer project that should worry the Conservative Party.
In his keynote address, Starmer is expected to quote Tony Blair, the last person to lead Labour into a general election victory. Blair once described the Labour Party as ‘the political wing of the British people’, and Starmer is expected to do the same, drawing parallels to the ‘New Labour’ project that turned them from a defeated party in 1992, to landslide winners in 1997.
Starmer is also expected to unveil even more new policy, including targets for his government, should Labour win the next election.
He will promise to boost home ownership, setting a target for 70% of the population to own their own home in the first five years of a Labour government, attempting to steal a march on the Conservatives, who were traditionally the party of home-ownership since Margaret Thatcher.
He is also expected to attack Liz Truss’ economic plans, again stealing a Thatcherite phrase by promising that Labour will be the party of ‘sound money’. He has already said that Labour would ditch the removal of the 45% top rate of tax, and use the money gained to invest in the NHS.
With the Conservatives floundering, they should be worried about this new vision from Starmer. His project aimed to take them from a fringe campaigning party to a party of government, with this conference, it looks like his transformation is complete.