Starmer heaps praise on 'winner' Tony Blair as he defies Corbynites

Starmer heaps praise on ‘winner’ Tony Blair as he demands Corbynites accept Labour has ‘changed’ and claims conference showdown with hard-Left ‘got my house in order’

  • Keir Starmer voiced defiance after conference speech disrupted by Corbynites
  • Labour leader said left-wing activists needed to understand party has ‘changed’
  • Heaped praised on Tony Blair as ‘three-time winner’ who changed lives in power

Keir Starmer heaped praise on ‘winner’ Tony Blair today as he demanded angry Corbynites accept Labour has ‘changed’.

Sir Keir voiced defiance despite his conference speech being disrupted by barracking yesterday – including when he was talking about the NHS care received by his late mother.

The party leader said showdowns with the hard-Left over internal rules and the minimum wage during the gathering in Brighton had ‘got my house in order’.

And he insisted he was now ready to try to emulate former PM Mr Blair by putting forward a policy platform that can take Labour into power.

Sir Keir’s supporters have been jubilant about the way the conference went, with the leadership managing to push through crucial changes, including overhauling the disciplinary process to deal with anti-Semitism, and raising the threshold for deselecting MPs.   

And his speech yesterday provided very visual evidence of his determination to move on from the disastrous Jeremy Corbyn era, with the leader repeatedly rebutting heckles from activists in the crowd.   

Sir Keir Starmer voiced defiance today despite his Labour conference speech in Brighton being disrupted by barracking

Sir Keir said showdowns with the hard-Left over internal rules and the minimum wage during the gathering in Brighton had ‘got my house in order’. Pictured, protests during his speech in Brighton yesterday

In a round of interviews this morning, Sir Keir said it was now clear that the ‘vast majority’ of the party wanted to focus on beating the Tories rather than left-wing dogma.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: ‘When your party changes, when your party dusts itself down and faces the electorate, there are some people who don’t like that.

‘But if you saw the hall yesterday, the vast majority of people were absolutely with me.’

Sir Keir also rebutted criticism that the 88-minute speech was too long – suggesting that was largely due to the disruption.

‘I have been criticised that the speech went on too long. The speech was actually one hour – the extra half an hour was standing ovations and clapping,’ he said.

‘If you want a sense of where our movement is, they are absolutely behind me in this.’

The Labour leader said that having ‘got my own house in order’, he was ready to make his case to the country.

In an important symbolic moment, Dame Louise Ellman rejoined Labour during the conference having quit in disgust at the wave of anti-Semitic abuse among activists. 

‘Having dealt with anti-Semitism, we now need to face the country and make that case,’ he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

Sir Keir told his restive party they needed to choose between ‘chanting slogans or changing lives’ in a combative speech yesterday

Left-wing activists repeatedly tried to disrupt the leader’s speech in Brighton yesterday 

‘We have now created a platform on which we put that alternative case for government.

‘Having got my own house in order, which we needed to do, I now have to face the country and set that case out, and I am absolutely looking forward to doing so.’

Mr Blair has been a totemic hate figure for many on the Left, who regarded New Labour as a betrayal.

But Sir Keir described Mr Blair as a ‘winner’ and said he was able to change lives in government.

The Labour leader told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘Tony Blair was a three-times winner in the Labour Party and we need to get back to winners in the Labour Party.’

He added: ‘It was exactly that heckle yesterday – ‘shout slogans or change lives’.

‘That is the choice for the Labour Party. We have changed, this is the platform. We have moved forward and we are going to change lives.’ 

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