Sir Keir Starmer’s Birmingham speech compared to Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ manifesto

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Birmingham City University political commentator Dr Steve McCabe says more must be done to engender trust in British politics

Behind the wheel of a hydrogen powered bus at Tyseley Energy park, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer looks cautiously at the road ahead.

With his face half covered with a mask he’s responsibly protecting himself and his entourage from the rapid spread of the Covid Omicron variant.

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But does his appearance in this everyday environment setting make him any more trustworthy?

Starmer arrived in town to deliver a speech in which he promising to restore trust in government if he wins power through a "contract with the British people" in which he said he would offer "security, prosperity and respect".

It’s no secret that trust in Boris Johnson has been questioned following the Downing Street Christmas parties saga.

Starmer’s speech comes after opinion polls showed a Labour lead for the first time since Mr Johnson came to power.

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However, it appears that the leader of the opposition has a way to go if he is to convince everyone to trust him.

With Birmingham City University political commentator Dr Steve McCabe suggesting more must be done to engender trust in British politics again.

He also drew parallels with the ‘New Labour’ manifesto championed by Sir Tony Blair in the 1990s.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer views a hydrogen powered bus during a tour of Tyseley Energy Park Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer views a hydrogen powered bus during a tour of Tyseley Energy Park
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer views a hydrogen powered bus during a tour of Tyseley Energy Park | Getty Images

“Sir Keir Starmer, buoyed by a clear opinion poll lead, used his speech in Birmingham to attempt to ensure his credibility as a serious threat to Johnson becomes much more clearly appreciated by the wider public,” said BCU Associate Professor Dr McCabe.

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“Given the way that 2021 ended, the increase in popularity of the Labour Party is hardly surprising. Until recently, though, Sir Keir has had a tough time in getting his message through and, in particular, what the Labour Party under his leadership actually stands for and what a government led by him would achieve.

“As Johnson increasingly resembles a wounded general and bounces from one crisis to another, Starmer displaying a sense of desire to look beyond the immediate problems facing the country, will be welcome.

“Starmer’s speech in including emphasis of security, prosperity and respect is clearly intended to impart a vision of a new Britain that has resonance with that which former, and hugely successful, leader now Sir Tony Blair propounded in the mid-1990s in the face of regular scandals under the Conservative government led by John Major.”

 Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer views a classic mini car that has been converted to electric during a tour of Tyseley Energy Park  Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer views a classic mini car that has been converted to electric during a tour of Tyseley Energy Park
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer views a classic mini car that has been converted to electric during a tour of Tyseley Energy Park | Getty Images

Dr McCabe also believes that by choosing to make his speech in Birmingham famous for its entrepreneurial spirit while checking out a new electric version of the classic mini, is also a sign he is looking to reignite passions stirred by Blair’s ‘Cool Britannia”.

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This was suggested further by his references to the sense of pride we should feel as a national as Birmingham hosts the Commonwealth Games later this year.

“Speaking in Birmingham, the city which used to be known as ‘the city of a thousand trades’, Starmer referred to his father, who worked in a factory, not feeling proud of being an occupation with higher esteem. What he appears to want is to draw attention to the proud tradition of making goods which Britain is, in some products, is still regarded as a world leader.

“Indeed, What Starmer appears to want to promise is a proud and patriotic country not dissimilar to that which Blair claimed would be possible under his New Labour manifesto in the 1997 election. Reference to the fact that Birmingham, once seen as a city to be avoided, is hosting the Commonwealth Games later this year, echoes the ‘Cool Britannia’ of Blair’s early years as PM.

“Unfortunately, the British public has grown tired of promises which, as Johnson has demonstrated, can easily be broken. The notion of promises, a “contract”, may ring hollow.

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“Neat sound bites and allusions to political history are all very well. The reality is that many are already struggling. They are beginning to recognise that ‘Global Britain’ means very little to them if they cannot feed themselves, heat their homes, or feel frightened. In that sense Starmer’s speech should be an open goal.”

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