Keir Starmer claims Tories would kill off NHS in Labour speech

Keir Starmer channels Blair as he claims Tory election victory would kill off the NHS and says he WILL build on ‘dreary’ parts of green belt – but warns Labour activists in conference speech that they can’t have a ‘cheque book state’

  • Starmer using his speech to set out plans for a ‘decade of national renewal’
  • Labour wants to reclassify ‘low-quality’ green belt land to build more homes 

Keir Starmer warned that another Tory election victory would put the NHS ‘in the ground’ today as he shrugged off an extraordinary security breach during his Labour conference speech.

Sir Keir gave the chilling warning about the health service – reminiscent of Tony Blair’s ’24 hours to save the NHS’ in 1997 – as he claimed the ‘tide is turning’ for the party.

The Opposition leader insisted he is the person to ‘heal’ the country – but warned it will require a ‘decade of national renewal’. He also confirmed that Labour wants to declassify ‘low quality’ parts of the green belt, dismissing it as the ‘grey belt’. 

He also made another effort to distance himself from the Corbyn era, insisting that reform did not mean a ‘cheque book state’ and playing down the prospect of tax hikes. On Israel, he challenged pro-Palestinian activists by boldly branding Hamas ‘terrorists’ for the bloody attacks on Israeli civilians. 

But the big conference speech was in danger of being overshadowed by a major security breach today when a protester invaded the stage screaming ‘democracy is in crisis’.

Sir Keir was just about to start his speech when the man ran up to the podium and started shouting and throwing what appeared to be glitter on his jacket.

He yelled ‘politics needs an update’, ‘we demand a people’s house’, ‘we are in crisis’ and ‘our whole future is in jeopardy’ as he was wrestled to the ground. 

But Sir Keir took off his jacket and continued after the man was removed saying, ‘If he thinks that bothers me he doesn’t know me.’

He also joked that he was glad it hadn’t happened to his wife Victoria because her dress was ‘beautiful’. 

The extraordinary incident will raise huge concerns about the protection for the Opposition leader. It is the second time during this year’s event that an interloper managed to get to the podium.

Unlike the Tory gathering Labour conference has delegates speaking during debates in the main hall, and the numbers in the audience are far higher. 

Keir Starmer warned that another Tory election victory would put the NHS ‘in the ground’ today as he shrugged off an extraordinary security breach during his Labour conference speech

he Labour leader was just about to start his speech when the man ran up to the podium and started shouting and seemed to throw something on his jacket

The man was wrestled to the ground by security after his protest, with Sir Keir resuming his speech saying he was not ‘bothered’ 

Sir Keir was left rubbing glitter from his hair after the extraordinary incident

Sir Keir’s wife Victoria was watching in the audience, as he said he was glad the protest had not ruined her ‘beautiful’ dress 

Worryingly for the Tories , their standing has actually gone backwards since Rishi Sunak wrapped up their conference last week

Sir Keir put a ‘big build’ at the heart of his pitch, vowing to reclassify ‘low quality’ green belt land.

Labour wants to construct thousands of new homes, and even new towns, by streamlining planning and removing obstacles.

Keir Starmer’s speech – key points

  • Labour leader’s speech was interrupted by a stage invader who showered Sir Keir in glitter
  • The protester shouted: ‘True democracy is citizen led’
  • Sir Keir brushed off the interruption, saying: ‘Protest not power, that is why we changed our party.’
  • He jibed at the Tories’ conference in Manchester last week as a ‘circus’
  • ‘I’m beginning to see why Liz Truss won,’ he said of Rishi Sunak
  • Sir Keir asked what the Tories have to show for 13 years in power
  • ‘Things have only got worse,’ he said of Conservative rule
  • He promised a ‘decade of national renewal’ under Labour
  • Sir Keir pledged ‘mission government’ as he repeated his ‘five national missions’
  • He said Labour was a ‘party of service’ and ‘no longer in thrall to gesture politics’
  • Sir Keir said he was ‘shocked and appalled’ by events in Israel as he condemned Hamas ‘terrorists’
  • ‘This action by Hamas does nothing for Palestinians and Israel must always have the right to defend her people,’ he added
  • ‘We are the healers’, ‘we are the modernisers’, and ‘we are the builders’, Sir Keir told Labour members
  • ‘We have to take care of the big decisions so working people have the freedom to enjoy what they love,’ he said
  • He compared an incoming Labour government to those of 1945, 1964 and 1997
  • Sir Keir vowed to get the NHS working ’round the clock’ to cut waiting lists
  • He pledged to end non-dom tax status to put more funds into the health service
  • He vowed to cut wasteful police procurement to put more money into tackling anti-social behaviour
  • Sir Keir reiterated Labour’s plan to end tax breaks for private schools in order to boost mental health services for all children
  • He promised a Labour government would build new towns and 1.5million homes across Britain
  • The Labour leader said this would not mean ‘tearing up the green belt’
  • But he vowed to tackle ‘clearly ridiculous uses’ of green-belt protection, which he branded the ‘grey belt’ 


He said building a series of new towns would not mean ‘tearing up the green belt’.

He said: ‘Labour is the party that protects our green spaces. No party fights harder for our environment.

‘We created the national parks, created the green belt in the first place – I grew up in Surrey – but where there are clearly ridiculous uses of it: disused car parks, dreary wasteland.

‘Not a green belt, a grey belt – sometimes within a city’s boundary – then this cannot be justified as a reason to hold our future back.

‘We will take this fight on. That’s a Britain built to last.’

Highlighting the case of semi-professional footballer Hamza Semakula, who crowdfunded £15,000 for a private knee operation after injury threatened his career, Sir Keir said: ‘The whole point of our NHS is to be the crowdfunded solution for all of us.

‘That’s the fundamental principle and at the next election it’s on the line.

‘The Conservative Party that brought the NHS to its knees will put it in the ground.

‘We have got to get it back on its feet.’

Sir Keir warned the ‘way back’ from 13 years of Conservative Government would be hard.

He said: ‘Thirteen years of ‘things can only get better’ versus thirteen years of ‘things have only got worse’.

‘Conference – this is what we have to fight: the Tory project to kick the hope out of this country.’

He added: ‘I have to warn you: our way back from this will be hard. But know this. What is broken can be repaired. What is ruined can be rebuilt. Wounds do heal.

‘And ultimately that project – their project – will crash against the spirit of working people in this country. They are the source of my hope.’

Sir Keir said Labour would have to confront the challenges of a new ‘age of insecurity’ and ‘find the hunger to win new opportunities’.

He said: ‘People are looking to us because they want our wounds to heal, and we are the healers.

‘People are looking to us because these challenges require a modern state, and we are the modernisers.

‘People are looking to us because they want to build a new Britain, and we are the builders.’

Sir Keir warned activists in the packed hall in Liverpool against complacency, despite the latest poll showing the party in an 16 point lead.

Worryingly for the Tories, their standing has actually gone backwards since Rishi Sunak wrapped up their conference last week. 

He also tried to quell fears that taxes will spike again if he gets into No10, stressing that government should ‘tread lightly on people’s lives’. 

Sir Keir insisted that Labour has been transformed since the days of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, saying he now leads ‘a changed Labour Party, no longer in thrall to gesture politics, no longer a party of protest… Those days are done. We will never go back.’

Sir Keir echoed shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves in hinting that any Labour tax rises will be levied on business and the better off rather than ‘working people’.

In light of the cost of living crisis, he said: ‘We should never forget that politics should tread lightly on peoples’ lives, that our job is to shoulder the burden for working people – carry the load, not add to it.’

Sir Keir will promise a major expansion of devolution, with councils and combined authorities getting control over housing and planning, skills, energy and transport.

That would essentially mean the same powers as London, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester.

Keir Starmer pictured arriving at conference with wife Victoria before delivering his big speech 

‘If we want to challenge the hoarding of potential in our economy then we must win the war against the hoarders in Westminster. Give power back and put communities in control,’ he will say.

The Labour leader will double down on pledges to tear up Britain’s planning system to ‘get Britain building’.

He will suggest that a new Labour government would oversee a ‘big build’. But previous pledges to build 100,000 new council houses a year have not been repeated this week.

Michael Gove yesterday said that Labour’s proposals to reform the planning system for infrastructure projects appeared to recycle initiatives the government has already made.

The Levelling Up Secretary said: ‘I hope everyone covering today’s non-announcements from Labour notes that they have literally no idea what to do on infrastructure.’

Sir Keir yesterday said he was ready for an election as early as May next year – and predicted the Conservatives would fight a dirty contest.

Addressing business chiefs, he said he expected Rishi Sunak to ‘go low’ in the fight to cling to power, and warned that the campaign was likely to ‘descend into a place which isn’t about big politics’.

Sir Keir’s comments suggest he believes he is now on course to hold power until the mid-2030s. 

Shadow international development minister Lisa Nandy yesterday hinted at the long-term ambitions, telling activists at a Labour fringe meeting: ‘We’re going for more than two terms.

Labour frontbencher Pat McFadden tried to play down the suggestion this morning, insisting Sir Keir is just levelling with the public about the challenge.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘What he’s doing is he’s setting out realistically that after 13 years of the Conservatives it’s going to take time to turn things round.

‘He is levelling with the public here. He’s saying we can’t solve everything overnight but what we can do is turn the page and begin a process of national renewal.

‘He’s assuming nothing. He’s being honest with the people about the time it’s going to take to face up to the challenges the country is facing right now.’

Insiders said Sir Keir would reveal ‘little if any’ new policy in today’s speech, fuelling concern that Labour is hiding its agenda for fear of public scrutiny. 

A senior Labour source yesterday said that even the party’s election manifesto next year would be only a ‘slim volume’, setting out Sir Keir’s five missions for government, with relatively little in the way of detailed policy.

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