Starmer’s promise to voters: ‘I will relight the fire of optimism’ in Britain

Keir Starmer pledges to “relight the fire” of optimism and hope among the British people – and rekindle their faith in politicians as public servants – if they come out in sufficient numbers and vote for a Labour government in Thursday’s general election.

Writing exclusively for the Observer with just days to go until polling day, the Labour leader says that after 14 years of the Tories “serving themselves”, restoring the “bond of respect between people and politics” will be the precondition for a Labour government’s success.

Striking a serious note and avoiding any hint of triumphalism, he writes: “I am sure some people would prefer a less sober message. But the Tories have kicked the hope out of people so thoroughly, to expect a chorus of optimism would be like scattering seeds on stony ground.

“I believe in hope, and believe we can inspire it again. Showing that it is a privilege to serve is a precondition for it.”

Starmer insists that if people choose him as their prime minister, then Labour will embark on a “national mission” to create wealth in every community and repair public services “with an immediate cash injection” alongside “urgent reforms”.

In what is one of his more personal campaign interventions, he says that working-class families such as the one he grew up in took for granted the idea that politics was about service and that Britain would offer them the hope of a better future.

“It is hard to argue that this hope burns brightly in Britain at the moment,” he says. “But be in no doubt – a vote for Labour this week is a vote to relight the fire.”

His aides said the piece was “very much Keir” and reflected his true belief that faith in public service had to be restored as an essential part of the process of putting the country back on track.

On Saturday, as all the main parties fanned out across the UK on a last weekend of campaigning before polling day, the final Opinium poll for the Observer shows Labour has retained a 20-point lead over the Conservatives – the same as a week ago and enough to deliver a large House of Commons majority if replicated on Thursday.

Labour is on 40% (unchanged compared with a week ago), while the Conservatives are on 20% (also unchanged). Reform UK is up 1 point on 17%, the Liberal Democrats up 1 point on 13% and the Greens down 3 points on 6%.

Pat McFadden, Labour’s national campaign coordinator, warned against a sense of presumption among party supporters, saying millions of people had not made up their minds or could change them. “So we will maintain our discipline until 10pm on Thursday. Change will only come if people vote Labour.”

On the campaign trail, Conservative MPs said suggestions that the party was suffering a “meltdown” that would leave it with fewer than 100 seats were overblown. “It is not as bad as the polls are suggesting,” said one senior Tory. “I really don’t think we are in sub-100-seat territory.”

But one prominent red wall Tory, who had hoped to hold onto his seat, said he feared defeat as the party was being “absolutely killed by Reform”.

Senior party sources signalled that the Tories were set to double down on warnings of a Labour “supermajority”. Some said voters would be alerted to the fact that Starmer could be in power for decades if they rejected the Conservatives in their safest strongholds.

“There’s a big difference with a Labour majority that’s completely unaccountable,” said a senior source. “You probably won’t have it for five years. You’ll have it for 10, 15, 20 years.”

Many Tories are pinning their hopes on the huge variations in the number of seats they are projected to win. The differences produced by recent constituency-level polls amount to well over 100 Conservative seats.

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However, senior party figures are already worrying about the aftermath of defeat. Some of them who are close to Rishi Sunak want him to stay in charge of the party should he lose.

They point to the example set by Michael Howard, who stayed on after defeat to oversee a leadership race that saw David Cameron installed.

“Rishi should stay on for at least six months,” said a senior minister. “He will hate it. I don’t think he’ll be able to bear to do it. But I think he’ll actually be very good at opposition, because he’s so forensic.

“Rushing into a 1997-style leadership election would be horrendous. I’ve got grave concerns about that. I hope he’s got the strength to stay. He will know what Michael Howard did and he’ll maybe think about that.”

At a rally on Saturday night, Starmer attempted to ease the concerns of wavering voters by saying he wanted to “heal the wounds” of recent years, vowing to “bring our country together, return politics to service, and start to build a new Britain”.

At the rally in London, Labour unveiled celebrity supporters including Sir Elton John, actors Kit Harington and James Norton, singer Beverley Knight, and comedians Jason Manford and Bill Bailey. Campaigning earlier on Saturday in Aldershot, Starmer again cautioned against promising too much when asked by the Observer about his “safety first” approach during the campaign.

“I think we are offering hope – we’re offering realistic hope … I don’t think that the electorate wants a sort of fantastical hope that they don’t think is going to be delivered. They want the ordinary hope that I’ve carried with me all my life, of being able to get on for their family, get on for the community and for their country to get on.”

In his article for the Observer, Starmer also makes clear that a Labour government would not be able to deliver results immediately. “It’s a big to-do list – no question. And, if we are successful this week, we would have to do it in a world more volatile than it has been for many years.”

He adds: “That’s why we have already started the hard work needed, so we are ready. Not complacent by any stretch, but if we get this over the line on Thursday, on Friday we take our first steps.”


Updated: Juni 29, 2024 — 5:44 pm

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