Keir Starmer speech: Labour leader promises to build 1.5m houses in five years at Liverpool conference
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Sir Keir Starmer has promised to build 1.5million houses in five years, if Labour is elected, and said that he would "turn our backs on never-ending Tory decline".
In his speech to the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, Starmer officially announced his housing pledge - which he revealed on Sunday to the BBC. He also promised to build a series of new towns, announced plans for technical excellence colleges and 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs.
Starmer's address - which was heavy on rhetoric and light on policies - was interrupted as he took to the stage, by a protester demanding democratic change. The man sprinkled glitter over Starmer and shouted "we need a people's house", before he was led off by security. Merseyside Police confirmed a 28-year-old was arrested.
Starmer handled this deftly by saying: "If he thinks that bothers me he doesn’t know me. Protest or power, that is why we changed our party conference." The other pressing issue, overshadowing the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, was Hamas' brutal attack on Israel.
Starmer said: "I am shocked and appalled by events in Israel. I utterly condemn the senseless murder of men, women and children – including British citizens – in cold blood by the terrorists of Hamas.
"This party believes in the two state solution. A Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel. But this action by Hamas does nothing for Palestinians. And Israel must always have the right to defend her people."
Unlike Rishi Sunak in Manchester, who largely ignored the Tories' 13 years in power, Starmer frequently cited New Labour's record in the 90s and 2000s. He hailed: "The shortest NHS waiting times in history. Half a million out of child poverty. Peace in Northern Ireland."
He said Labour has a tough road ahead, but spoke with optimism, saying: "What is broken can be repaired, what is ruined can be rebuilt.” The other main focus, along with "renewal", was to “get Britain building”, and Starmer promised a “big build” that ensures “the winner this time will be working people, everywhere.”
He said: "he Britain I know we must build. So let’s get to work. Because there is one barrier so big, so imposing that it blocks out all light from the other side.
"A blockage that stops this country building roads, grid connections, laboratories, trainlines, warehouses, windfarms, power stations. An obstacle to the aspirations of millions – now and in the future – who deserve the security of home ownership. A future hidden by our restrictive planning system… conference, we must bulldoze through it."
Starmer told the audience: "It’s time to build one and half million new homes across the country.
"Opportunities for first time buyers in every community. New development corporations with the power to remove the blockages. New infrastructure to support families and communities to grow. Roads, tunnels, power stations – built quicker and cheaper."
One of the other few policy announcements from Starmer was to guarantee town centre patrols through 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs on the streets. He called "time on wasteful police procurement”, which he said will fund Labour’s plan for new officers, and told conference that Labour’s community policing guarantee will deliver “more police in your town, fighting anti-social behaviour, taking back our streets.”
Speaking about the technical excellence colleges, Starmer explained: "Today we commit to a new generation of colleges. Technical excellence colleges. Colleges with stronger links to their local economies. Planted firmly in the ground of young peoples’ aspiration."
When discussing the NHS, the Labour leader highlighted the case of Hamza Semakula. The footballer was forced to set up a GoFundMe page to crowdfund private anterior cruciate ligament surgery, instead of waiting for the operation with the NHS. GoFundMe said it has seen a tripling of the number of people fundraising for ACL injuries in the UK, compared with 2019.
Starmer 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.”
Unlike Sunak last week, Starmer spoke about the cost of living crisis, saying that “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".
Starmer set his sights on a “decade of national renewal” under Labour, suggesting he wants at least two terms in power. In another nod to New Labour, he said the country had “13 years of ‘things can only get better’ versus 13 years of ‘things have only got worse’”.
“This is what we have to fight: the Tory project to kick the hope out of this country. Drain the reservoirs of our belief.”
He told activists: “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.”