Here are the main points from Sir Keir Starmer’s interview with Andrew Marr.
- Starmer ruled out nationalising the big six energy companies. Asked if he would do this, at first he said the immediate problem was to secure supply. But when asked again if would nationalise them, he replied: “No.” When it was put to him that when running for the Labour leadership he did propose nationalising them as one of his 10 principles, he told Marr that nationalisation was not the same as common ownership. He also said it was important to be pragmatic. He said:
I’d be pragmatic about it, and where common ownership is value for money for the taxpayer and delivers better services then there should be common ownership.
He cited test and trace as an example of a service that should have been under common ownership.
In the 10 pledges document issued during the Labour leadership contest, Starmer said:
Public services should be in public hands, not making profits for shareholders. Support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water.
- He expressed his disapproval of his deputy, Angela Rayner, calling the Tories “scum” – but did not directly call for her to apologise. Asked about her comment, he said:
Angela and I take different approaches and that’s not language that I would use.
Asked if she should apologise, he said:
That’s a matter for Angela … but I would not have used those words. I will talk to Angela about it later on.
- He suggested the government might have to grant visas to 100,000 foreign lorry drivers, not just the 5,000 planned by ministers. He said:
On the HGV situation we are going to have to bring in more drivers and more visas. I’m astonished the government, knowing the situation, is not acting today. The prime minister needs to say today what he is going to do.
Asked if he would bring in 100,000 foreign drivers, Starmer said:
We are going to have to do that. We have to issue enough visas to cover the number of drivers that we need.
- He said he was “very happy” with the outcome of the internal Labour debate on his proposed changes to party leadership election rules. His decision to withdraw his plans to bring back the electoral college, because of union opposition, has been described as an embarrassing defeat. (See 8.40am.) But Starmer claimed he did not see it that way. He said:
By the way, I’m very happy with the situation we’re in now because I’ve got a package of alternatives that does what I wanted them to do, which is to ensure that the Labour party can focus on the country and some of those rules were holding us back.
So I’m very happy with the situation we find ourselves in. It’s a strong package …
There’s almost nobody in the Labour party who doesn’t say we need to change the rules. What people have been saying is that it would be better to delay it. I think to delay it and not take a difficult decision is weakness.
I think strong leadership requires tough decisions to be taken, and to be taken quickly …
I would rather take three days of arguing about rule changes and get them through than do what everyone else is saying, which is put it off for another 12 months. The last thing I want is another 12 months arguing about these rules.
- He rejected claims that as leader he needed to be more of a “showman”, able to engage with voters emotionally. He said people saying that thought he should be more like Boris Johnson. He went on:
It’s priced in, apparently, that [Johnson] is dishonest. Just stop there and ask ourselves: do we want our politics, and our political leaders and our prime minster to be of a characteristic where they are untrustworthy, and where it’s priced in. I’m different, I’m afraid. I believe in integrity, I believe in truth.
- He cited Mark Drakeford in Wales as an example of how a leader could be successful without “showman” qualities. He did not describe Drakeford as boring (one of the criticisms frequently made of Starmer himself, and a word that has been applied to the Welsh first minister too), but instead he praised Drakeford as “honest, reassuring and transparent”.
- Starmer said people should not say only women have a cervix. Asked if it was transphobic to say this, he replied:
It is something that shouldn’t be said. It is not right.
But, when pressed to explain why he took this view, he did not elaborated but instead said: “We do everybody a disservice when we reduce what is a really important issue to these exchanges on particular things that are said.” He said he wanted to see a “mature, respectful debate about trans rights” and he said the trans community was “the most marginalised and abused” of many communities. He also said that it would have been safe for Rosie Duffield, the Labour MP, to attend conference. Duffield is staying away because of the controversy generated by her remarks on trans issues, which have included liking a tweet saying women were people with a cervix.
- He said Labour has no plans to raise income tax. When Marr put it to him that Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, told the Sunday Times that the party was not going to raise income tax, Starmer said Reeves said the party was not currently considering an income tax rise. Starmer’s account of the interview (paywall) is correct. Reeves told the paper: “I don’t have any plans to increase the rates of income tax.”
Here is my colleague Heather Starmer’s story about Sir Keir Starmer ruling out nationalising the big six energy companies in his Andrew Marr interview.
This is from my colleague Rafael Behr on Sir Keir Starmer’s Andrew Marr interview.
Q: What do you say to people who argue that what Labour needs is a leader who is a showman, and who is more emotional?
Starmer says people say that about Boris Johnson. People know he is untrustworthy, but they say that is priced in. Do we really want that for the country, he asks.
He says Mark Drakeford in Wales shows how an alternative model of leadership work.
Q: What do you say to people who say you should stand aside for someone else?
Starmer says he will be setting out his platform in his speech on Wednesday.
And that’s it. The interview is over.
I will post a summary soon.
Starmer says he is “happy” with the leadership election reforms being voted on.
He says delaying a decision would have been a sign of weakness. Taking decisions is “strong leadership”, he says.
He says it is better to spend three days having an argument and getting this sorted out than to duck the issue.
Q: Should Angela Rayner apologise for calling the Tories scum.
Starmer says he would not have used those words.
Q: Should she apologise?
Starmer says that is a matter for her.
Q: Are women only people with a cervix?
Starmer says he wants to see a mature, respectful debate about trans rights.
He says he spoke to Rosie Duffield, the Labour MP who has attracted strong criticism for backing the view that women are people with a cervix. He says she would have been welcome at the conference.
Pressed again on the cervix question, he says this debate should not be reduced to simple questions.
Q: Will you nationalise the big six energy companies?
Starmer says the immediate issue is how to get through the winter.
Q: Will you nationalise the big six companies?
No, says Starmer,
Q: But in your 10 principles, when you stood for the leadership, you said these companies should be under common ownership.
Starmer says common ownership is not the same as nationalisation. He says he wants to be pragmatic.
Q: Ed Miliband said on Newsnight recently that this would mean nationalisation.
Starmer says where common ownership provides values for the taxpayer, and provides a better service, he is in favour of it. He cites track and trace as an example. He says it cost £37bn, but would have been better off in the public sector.
Q: Would you put up taxes for income from shares?
Starmer says they will not unfairly tax working families.
Q: Would you repeal the national insurance hike?
Starmer says it was the wrong thing to do?
Q: Would you repeal it?
Starmer says it is an unfair tax. He says Labour’s view is that those with the broadest shoulders should pay.
Q: Rachel Reeves says today you would not put up income tax.
Starmer says Reeves said they are not considering putting up income tax.
She has set out new fiscal rules. They are looking at tax, he says.
Q: This sounds like free movement.
Starmer says it sounds like lack of planning by the government.
Andrew Marr starts by asking Sir Keir Starmer about the lorry driver crisis.
Starmer says this problem has been known about for a long time. He says the government, when it left the EU, should have prepared a back-up plan.
He says another 5,000 visas for foreign drivers will not be enough.
Q: So would you let in 100,000 – the number of drivers the UK is short of?
Starmer suggests the government might have to. He says 5,000 will not be enough. The problem will last until Christmas, he says.
And he says the army cannot be brought in over the long term.
This is from the Labour backbencher Steve McCabe, pointing out that Angela Rayner is not the only MP in trouble this weekend over a remark deemed offensive.
This is what Angela Rayner told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday about why she called the Tories “scum” at a meeting last night. She said:
Anyone who leaves children hungry during a pandemic and can give billions of pounds to their mates on WhatsApp, I think that was pretty scummy.
Now that is a phrase, and let me contextualise it, it’s a phrase that you would hear very often in northern working-class towns. We’d even say it jovially to other people. And that to me is my street language …
I’m not saying that anyone who voted for Conservatives are racist, scummy and homophobic …
I’m saying the prime minister has said those things and has acted in that way …
If the prime minister wants to apologise, and remove himself from those comments that he’s made that are homophobic that racist, that are misogynistic, then I will apologise for calling him scummy.
Asked about Angela Rayner’s “scum” comment, McDonnell says “we’ve all been there, late at night”. He says he likes the way Rayner sounds like an ordinary person.
He says sometimes people do not get their language right. But people will forgive them if they understanding their motives, he says.
John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, is being interviewed on Sky News. He says he thinks it will be “touch and go” whether the watered-down changes to the party leadership rules being debated this afternoon pass.
He says he is not in favour himself.
I don’t think actually we need a change in the rule, but if it goes through, to be honest, we’ll work with it, it won’t prevent a left-winger coming forward, as far as I’m concerned.
But I don’t think it’s necessary and I would oppose it this morning if I had a vote, definitely.
Asked if he thinks the proposal reflects the fact that the leadership does not trust the membership, McDonnell agrees. He says some people do not trust party democracy.
UPDATE: McDonnell said:
I think there are some people – maybe around Keir as well, I don’t think it’s Keir himself – who have a pathological fear of our members.
Trust the people. Don’t have your shenanigans where you’re trying to restrict the role of members. In fact, when Keir stood for leader he said he was going to engage with members more and members would have more of a role – that’s why people feel this is a bit of a step backwards and he hasn’t been really straight.
Rayner says she considers Starmer feminist. She says during the Covid crisis Starmer discussed with her making arrangements for her to take over if he fell ill. That was a sign of respect for her status and role, she says.
Q: How can women trust Labour when the Labour MP Rosie Duffield does not feel safe to come to conference?
Rayner says the abuse the Duffield has faced is “completely unacceptable”. She says the MP has her full support.
Angela Rayner, the Labour deputy leader, is being interviewed on Sky.
Q: Did Sir Keir Starmer talk to you in advance about his proposed rule changes?
Yes, says Rayner. And she says he spoke to the unions too.
Q: So you did not agree, because you proposed a separate plan to the national executive committee?
Rayner says she will not discuss private conversations, but she says she wanted to make sure the rule changes did not stop a broad selection of candidates being on the ballot.
Q: How can people believe you and Starmer are together when you cannot agree?
Rayner says they did agree. Her amendment was a friendly amendment to ensure that they did achieve the goal both she and Starmer wanted.
Q: Margaret Beckett yesterday talked about civility. So did David Evans, the general secretary. You called the Tories last night “a bunch of scum”. Is that the kind of civility the Starmer/Rayner party envisages?
Rayner says that was “post-watershed”, to some activists. She says the PM has said racist and homophobic things, and he has wasted money by contracts for mates. She says she was speaking to activists to get “fire in their belly”. She says when she was young the Tories said women like her got pregnant just to get a council house. And she says the PM has not apologised for what he said about Muslim women.
Q: But you were talking about a bunch of them.
Rayner says cabinet ministers are involved in what the government has done. She cites Priti Patel. She says to leave children hungry during the pandemic is “a scummy thing to do”. That is “street language”, she says.
Q: Are you saying people who vote Tory are scum?
No, says Rayner. She says she is not saying that.
Q: Will you apologise to the PM for calling him scum?
Rayner says she will if the PM apologises for the racist things he has said.
Good morning. It is the first full day of the Labour conference in Brighton, and so far it is not going well. Here is the Observer splash by my colleagues Toby Helm and Michael Savage.
And here is an extract.
Keir Starmer is battling to restore authority over the Labour party after a bruising defeat at the hands of unions and the left sparked a storm of criticism over his performance as leader.
Ahead of a conference billed as the moment when Starmer would introduce himself as a future prime minister to the British people, the Labour leader on Saturday was forced to withdraw plans to limit the role of party members, and increase that of MPs, in selecting future party leaders, after the unions united in opposition to block the move …
Starmer loyalists tried to talk up the leader’s success in forcing through other reforms that would make it more difficult for hard-left activists to deselect Labour MPs. “He has locked out the hard left. This is a major achievement,” said one frontbencher.
But there was widespread dismay in all wings of the party over the way Labour had been plunged into more divisive internal arguments just at the point when it had hoped to train its guns on the Tories and present its leader as a future occupant of No 10 …
Anger at Starmer’s misjudgment over the leadership rule changes has seriously dented morale, even among shadow ministers who see themselves as scrupulously loyal. “This is a total disaster,” one member of the frontbench said.
Still, things can only get better, as they used to say at these events. Here are some of the other Labour conference stories around this morning.
Employers in every sector told me how much they need well-rounded young people with relevant skills and literate in technology.
And young people have told me how ambitious they are for their own futures.” Labour’s reforms would mean every child having a laptop at home. To ensure teenagers are fit for jobs, two weeks’ work experience would be compulsory. And to prepare for the real world, statutory citizenship courses would include pension planning, mortgage applications, and understanding credit ratings and employment and rental contracts.
- John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, has used an article in the Observer to say “people have been left without knowing what or who the party stands for” under Starmer.
- Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, has told the Sunday Times (paywall) that she does not believe in a magic money rules and that Labour would apply its own fiscal rules. In their write-up of the interview, Tim Shipman and Caroline Wheeler report:
A Labour government would balance day-to-day government spending, but allow itself to borrow for capital investment. Crucially, it would be committed to reducing the national debt as a proportion of national income. Going into the 2008 financial crisis it was 38 per cent of the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP), rising to 60 per cent when Labour left office in 2010. By the start of the Covid crisis it was 80 per cent and now it has hit 98 per cent of GDP …
Reeves has two further rules which will give her more wriggle room: Labour would take government assets into account when examining the books, which would deter the sell-off of assets that make a return for the taxpayer, a move that has the backing of the new OBR boss Richard Hughes. (This she is keen for us to know “means it isn’t mad”).
Finally, the OBR could declare a crisis situation where all the rules are suspended for a period. Reeves argues that it is important to work such a scenario into the rules so unexpected events do not simply lead to them being torn up. “It will be up to the OBR, not to the government, to say we’re in a crisis,” she explains.
- Len McCluskey, the former Unite general secretary, has said at a conference event it is “almost impossible” for Labour to win the next election, the Sunday Telegraph reports.
Here is the main agenda for the day.
8.30am: Angela Rayner, the Labour deputy leader, is interviewed on Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday. Other guests include John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, and Christina McAnea, the Unison general secretary.
After 9am: Sir Keir Starmer is interviewed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
9.50am: The conference opens. Ed Miliband, the shadow business secretary, opens a debate on the environment and the green new deal.
12.25pm: Jo Stevens, the shadow culture secretary, speaks to the conference.
Lunchtime: Jeremy Corbyn, the former party leader, is due to speak at lunchtime fringe events
2.15pm: Lucy Powell, the shadow housing secretary, opens a debate on housing and transport.
4.10pm: Jim McMahon, the shadow transport secretary, speaks to the conference.
4.20pm: Delegates begin a debate on party rule changes, including requiring leadership candidates to be nominated by 20% of MPs, not 10% as now, and changes to the way disciplinary complaints are investigated (a response to criticism of the party by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission).
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