Balls in your court! Starmer to reignite war of words with Corbyn as Labour row erupts

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In his first full party conference speech, the Labour leader will say the country faces “a big moment” with difficult choices ahead. He will insist Labour can win the next election by offering to build both a “strong economy” and a “good society.”

“I can promise you that under my leadership Labour will be back in business,” he is expected to tell party delegates on the final day of the conference in Brighton.

His speech will appeal to the party to unite after bad-tempered clashes at the conference with sniping from Left-wingers and the resignation of shadow cabinet member Andy McDonald.

In an attempt to stamp his authority on the party, he last night insisted former leader Jeremy Corbyn will not regain the Labour whip in the Commons until he apologies for the surge of anti-semitic abuse among activists during his time in charge.

“It has been going on for months and the ball is in Jeremy’s court.

“Jeremy was asked to apologise for taking down the post that caused the problem in the first place and to work with us.

“But I am trying to turn our party from a party that spends far too much time talking to itself to a party that talks to the country about the issues that matter to the country,” Sir Keir said in a television interview at the conference.

Aides say his speech, his first to a fully packed conference hall since becoming leader nearly 18 months ago, will seek to tell voters who he is and set out his values.

A Labour source said: “Keir’s speech will be noticeably different from what you’ve heard from Labour in recent years. It will be more optimistic, more focused on the future, more outward looking.

“The speech will be a demonstration of the way the Labour party has changed. It will be a clear indication that Labour will never again go into an election with a manifesto that isn’t a serious plan for government.”

He will also deliver his diagnosis of the state of the UK following the Covid pandemic.

He will accuse Boris Johnson’s Tories of short-term failures leading to the current fuel crisis and soaring cost of living as well as more long-term neglect of society’s needs.

 The Labour leader is expected to say: “I see the Government lost in the woods with two paths beckoning.

“One path leads back where we came from, none of the lessons of Covid are heeded; the divisions and flaws that were brutally exposed by the pandemic all worsen.

“But there is another path down which we address the chronic problems revealed by Covid with the kindness and the togetherness that got us through.

That path leads to a future in which a smart government enlists the brilliance of scientific invention to create an economy in which people are healthy and well-educated ‑ a contributing society in which everyone has their role to play.”

Seeking to distance himself from Labour’s past failings, Sir Keir will say: “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.

“But you don’t get one without the other. And under my leadership we are committed to both.”

He will add: “The questions we face in Britain today, are big ones. How we emerge from the biggest pandemic in a century? How we make our living in a competitive world?

“The climate crisis, our relationship with Europe, the future of our union ‑ these are big issues. But our politics is so small. So our politics needs to grow to meet the scale of the challenge.”

Labour aides claim their focus group research shows that many of their traditional voters in the so-called “Red Wall” former heartlands in the north of England who switched to the Tories at the 2019 general election are beginning to question the competence of Mr Johnson’s administration.

“The shine is beginning to come off Boris Johnson. The country needs a serious leader for serious times,” said one senior Labour source.

Sir Keir last night insisted he was not nervous about today’s big conference speech despite the pressure of expectation given the Covid pandemic has prevented him from making a full leader’s speech until this week.

“I can’t wait to go on that stage and be in front of a crowd. The difference between last year and this is huge.

“Last year, I had to give the whole speech down the barrel of a camera with one other person in the room and no reaction from anyone. “Tomorrow I’ll be in front of thousands of our members and supporters. And I’m so looking forward to it.

He added: “This is an opportunity for me to set out where I think the future of our country lies. I haven’t had the opportunity yet and I’m really gonna take it tomorrow.”

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