Starmer speech: Everything he said at Labour conference

Keir Starmer has set out his vision for the nation in his 2021 Labour Party conference speech.

In a feature film length speech, which marked the first time the leader addressed the whole party in this manner after last year’s conference was cancelled due to coronavirus, Starmer spoke about why he got into politics in the first place, the problems he believes are plaguing society and how Labour would “fix them”.

It was marred by hecklers and accused of being far too long but, otherwise, how did he fare?

Let’s take a look at the highlight reel:

Opening song: Right here, Right Now, Fatboy Slim

Much is made of the song a politician chooses to walk out to when delivering their conference speech and people may speculate that choosing a 90s track showed that Starmer is more New Labour than he will ever admit. Later though, he said he had music lessons with Fatboy Slim while he was at school – perhaps the experience left its mark.

“Sunday was particularly nerve wracking then the results started coming through… Arsenal 3, Tottenham 1!”

The Labour Party has enacted changes, giving MPs more power to choose leaders. The controversial reforms, which mean candidates will need to get the support of 20 per cent (up from 10 per cent) of the party to be on the selection paper, were lambasted by the left of the party but proponents say it will help the party win elections.

Making a joke appearing to reference this argument showed Starmer was undeterred by his opposition and put his One Major Personality Trait (liking football) at the front and centre of his speech. Good stuff.

“Level-up? You can’t even fill up!”

Next, Starmer attacked the Conservative government over the ongoing petrol crisis. He mocked Johnson’s slogan and policy and said the party was blaming everyone else except themselves.

“It’s been important to get our own house in order and we have done that.”

Distancing himself from the past. Starmer thanked people who stuck with the party and did not vote for the Conservatives in the 2019 election. He welcomed those returning to the party and said he would not go to elections without “a serious plan” for the country, in what seemed a clear dig at former leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Jeremy Corbyn addresses an audience at a fringe event for political festival The World Transformed

(Getty Images)

“At this time on a Wednesday it’s normally the Tories who are heckling me. It doesn’t bother me then and it doesn’t bother me now.”

During his speech, Starmer was repeatedly heckled. He dealt with the interruptions well and was undeterred. “Shouting slogans or changing lives conference?” he later said in response to more hecklers, as the crowd cheered to support him.

“I’m not from a privileged background, my Dad was a toolmaker but in a way so was Boris Johnson’s.”

Next, Starmer moved on to explaining his own family history and why it has led to him holding the beliefs he does today. He said “family and work” were two key values important to him and that his upbringing gave him a “deep respect for the dignity of work”. “Good work and fair growth will be the priority of a Labour government,” he said, while making a delicious dig at Johnson.

“That is why under my leadership the fight against crime will always be a Labour issue.”

After speaking about his upbringing, Starmer moved on to the policies a Labour government under his premiership would enact. Having worked in crime for so long, perhaps it is unsurprising that he touched on this first and said that a Labour government would enact tougher sentences for stalkers, rapists and those involved in domestic violence. He also said he would stand against anti-social behaviour.

It has been said that Starmer emulated Tony Blair with this policy but this was all the “tough on crime” without the “and the causes of crime”.

“I don’t think Boris Johnson is a bad man I think he is a trivial man. He is a showman with nothing left to show.”

Starmer also criticised Johnson and the government. He said that, while he was working to prosecute terrorists, Johnson was writing newspaper columns which he implied were vacuous and appearing on TV to make quips. Starmer also said Johnson was not strict enough when Dominic Cummings and Matt Hancock breaking coronavirus rules and that he acts as if rules don’t apply to him. “Politics has to be clean, wrongdoing has to be punished,” he said.

“A Labour government will always fund the NHS properly.”

Back to policy. Starmer slammed the Tories over their handling of the pandemic but said it was made worse because of their governance of the NHS for the past 11 years. He said their reforms were “pointless” and made “cracks” that Covid “seeped into”.

“Labour would shift the priority of the NHS away from emergency care towards prevention”, he said and also pledged that mental health support would be available within a month.

He also waxed lyrical about the role technology can play in medicine.

“Education is so important I’m tempted to say it three times.”

With another nod to Blair, Starmer spoke about the importance of education. “I want every parent in the country to be able to send their children to a great state school,” he said.

He mocked the government for wanting to reintroduce Latin in schools and instead spoke about the importance of music, art, drama, practical skills and access to career advisers. He wants every child to have the chance to play sports and for them to leave school “ready for work and ready for life,” whatever that means.

“Make Brexit work”

As in his pamphlet, Starmer criticised the Tories for slogan politics and said they had no other real plans for the country.

But Starmer did have a slogan of his own, paying mocking homage to Johnson’s “get Brexit done” and moving the country away from the Brexit debate despite his previous calls for a second referendum.

“I do see a way forward after Brexit,” he said, though said the Tories had “botched” the exit.

“The economic inheritance from the Tories will be appalling,”

Conservatives often claim Labour governments will damage the economy but Starmer flipped the script. He criticised their tax changes and Universal Credit cuts and said Labour would offer “value for money”.

As briefed to the press as a key line, “Labour will be back in business” he said.

“Too often in the history of this party our dream of the good society falls foul of the belief that we will not run a strong economy… under my leadership we are committed to both,” he said.

“Time is short and we have a duty to act”.

Starmer then spoke about climate change including installing “wind turbines” and creating “green jobs”. Whether Greta Thunberg would have found that part a bit “blah, blah, blah”, we don’t know.


Like in his essay, there was a lot of stuff to be excited about in Starmer’s vision for Britain and he spoke with integrity.

But like in his essay, his messages and policies were buried in a lot of waffle meaning viewers had to hunt for them.

Starmer often criticises Johnson for his punchy comms but lack of substance. Starmer certainly has the latter, but if he wants to be the next Prime Minister, he will have to learn the former skill too.

Here’s what other people had to say about it:


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