By Sam Tilley
Labour leadership hopeful Sir Keir Starmer was in Cardiff last Thursday, as the second stage of the leadership race went into full throttle. Speaking at an event held for both members of Cardiff Labour Students and the wider Labour Party, Starmer made it clear that Labour had a “mountain to climb” before the next general election in 2024 and that there was “no good pretending any good” came out of December’s poll.
The event took place at Albany Road Baptist Church and was hosted by Cardiff Labour Students and Cardiff Central’s MP, Jo Stevens. The President of Cardiff Labour Students, Leo Holmes, spoke to Gair Rhydd:
“What’s clear from the event tonight is that he’s the person to unite the party, we’ve been infighting with each other for a long time and with the Tories being in government for ten years and with austerity being driven throughout this country, uniting behind Keir will fundamentally bring change to the party and bring a Labour government.”
Stamer, also the Shadow Brexit Secretary, spoke on a variety of topics including Britain’s departure from the European Union, the climate crisis and Wales’ place in the United Kingdom. On Brexit, Stamer, the architect of Labour’s infamous ‘six tests’, said “the argument between leave and remain is over, it is instead time to look at our place on the world stage”. He also gave a stark warning on the state of political discourse in Britain, citing the fact that he was elected on the same day as Jo Cox; who was tragically assassinated during the 2016 referendum campaign.
On the possibility of a more federal United Kingdom, Starmer posited a “new constitutional reset for the whole of the UK. Wales and Scotland would have more power and would be treated as equals.
“Powers that were once in Brussels are coming back to the UK, these shouldn’t just be handed back to Whitehall…but I’m not wedded to any particular form of federalism”.
Currently, Welsh Labour is the only branch of the Labour Party that is in a national government and it’s something Starmer is keen to work with. “One of the things I’d like to see as the Leader of the Opposition is a closer relationship with Scottish and Welsh Labour. I’ve tried to come to Wales to have discussions with Welsh Labour on the decisions we took on Brexit and this is the process I’d want to continue as Leader of the Opposition”.
The Shadow Brexit Secretary was introduced by Cardiff Central MP Jo Stevens who cited his promises to “unite the party” and to provide a “strong and effective leadership against current Prime Minister Boris Johnson”. Stevens, who nominated Starmer for the leadership, later spoke to Gair Rhydd on why she’s thrown her support behind the MP for Holborn and St Pancras.
“ I think we need a leader who can build unity in the party, can build trust and confidence across the country, and someone who’s got the ability, and the experience, and the character to eviscerate Boris Johnson every week at Prime Minister’s Questions, but also to represent our Labour values every day in the media and across the country and I think Keir brings all of those things. I like all of the candidates but I think he’s the stand-out one.”
Another MP present at the event was Cardiff South and Penarth MP Stephen Doughty who is also backing Starmer. He told Gair Rhydd “I think Keir first and foremost tonight spoke about unity which I think is what is needed, to bring together all of the talent, all of the views, all of the different aspects of our members. Amongst our members, our trade unionists and across the United Kingdom, the ability to speak to all parts of the United Kingdom is something Keir spoke clearly about tonight.
“It’s important to appeal to voters in Wales and Scotland, to the North of England and the south, to the South East and the South West and London. We’re only going to win a majority on a UK level if we do that.
“It’s not just a case of winning back voters we lost at the last election, he made it very clearly that we’ve lost four elections in a row and we cannot afford to have Labour out of power for what will be effectively 20 years.”