Labour will make national security a key priority, Sir Keir Starmer will say on Tuesday, as he seeks to draw a line under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and convince voters that the party deserves a second chance.
In his first conference speech as Labour leader, Sir Keir will declare his love for Britain and urge traditional party supporters who defected to the Conservatives last year to “look again at Labour”.
Having unveiled a new party slogan - “A New Leadership” - he will tell members that “it’s time to get serious about winning” power again and to start “taking the job seriously.”
Signalling a clear break from the Corbyn era, he will insist that Labour can be trusted with the defence of the realm while also providing “security” at home by clamping down on crime and protecting people’s livelihoods.
It comes after Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, told members on Monday that his role was to “convince people that Labour will keep you, your family and your community safe.”
Meanwhile, Anneliese Dodds, the shadow chancellor, vowed to restore trust with businesses, adding that she would ensure “that public money was always spent wisely” rather than “splurged”.
Addressing this year’s virtual event, Sir Keir will also draw on his own background as the son of a nurse and toolmaker, before going on to say: “My vision for Britain is simple: I want this to be the best country to grow up in and the best country to grow old in.
“A country in which we put family first. A country that embodies the values I hold dear. Decency, fairness, opportunity, compassion and security. Security for our nation, our families and all of our communities.”
“So, to those people in Doncaster and Deeside, in Glasgow and Grimsby, in Stoke and in Stevenage to those who have turned away from Labour, I say this: we hear you.
“I ask you: take another look at Labour. We’re under new leadership. We love this country as you do.”
The speech is the latest attempt by Sir Keir to recast Labour as a patriotic party, amid concern that Mr Corbyn’s long-standing opposition to Nato, military intervention and past association with IRA members proved toxic in former Labour strongholds in the North and Midlands known as the “redwall.”
In recent months, Labour has launched a new “friends of the forces” programme designed to rebuild bridges with veterans, while also taking a firmer stance on Russia in the wake of the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader.
The backlash over Mr Corbyn’s failure to unequivocally condemn Moscow in the wake of the Salisbury attack has been widely cited by party moderates as a key factor in last year’s crushing election defeat.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, a Labour source said Sir Keir was also making a direct pitch to those who had never voted for the party, adding that he believed the party could not go into the next election “not being trusted on national security.”
“He’s a former director of public prosecutions and national security has always been a priority of his,” the source added.
“If you look back broadly at the history of the Labour Party, the best leaders had a patriotic and positive view of this country. That is exactly where Keir is. This is the stuff that Keir got into politics to deliver.”
However, having faced criticism from trade unions and the party’s hard Left for failing to talk up Mr Corbyn’s radical policy agenda, Sir Keir will also pledge to bring about “properly-funded public services” and a “greener, cleaner and fairer society.”
He will reiterate his commitment to working “hand-in-hand” with the unions to create high-quality jobs, as well calling on Boriss Johnson to bring forward a national strategy to “close the educational gap” which has widened over the course of the pandemic.