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A letter from Sir Keir Starmer: I'll keep listening and fighting for our future

Opinions | Published:

Sir Keir Starmer explains how he wants to make Labour electable by being an effective but fair opposition.

Sir Keir Starmer has replaced Jeremy Corbyn as the Labour leader

When I became Labour Party leader eight weeks ago, the world felt very different.

Coronavirus has changed our way of life and forced families across the West Midlands to make the most extraordinary of sacrifices.

Some families have had to make agonising decisions, unable to be with loved ones in their final moments. Others have lost their jobs and now face a historic recession.

Those with elderly relatives in care homes have watched on in fear as those places of safety became epicentres of the virus.

I heard and felt the pain of these sacrifices among the people of Wolverhampton this week in an online event with more than 100 people. I want to see the Government succeed in stopping this virus. My purpose – the Labour Party’s purpose – is the same as the Government’s: to save lives and to protect our country.

But, mistakes have been made.

The Government was too slow to enter lockdown, too slow to recognise the crisis in our care homes and too slow to get PPE to the frontline. And the mishandling of the past few weeks has undermined people’s faith even further.

The Prime Minister was too weak to sack Dominic Cummings for breaking the lockdown. That gave the entire country the sense that it’s one rule for them, and another for everyone else.

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We all want the country to reopen and for our economy to restart. And these are tricky decisions for any government to take. But the number one priority must be to keep people safe.

My biggest fear at the moment is we have a Government that is losing public trust and confidence at a time when it is needed the most.

Eight weeks ago, I promised a new type of opposition. This is an unprecedented crisis and we all want the Government to get this right.

Labour will work constructively under my leadership, challenging the government so that things improve, not to score points. And we will listen closely to people in communities up and down the country and across the West Midlands on what needs to be done.

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I heard from residents this week about the disproportionate impact of the virus on black, Asian and minority ethnic communities; a tragedy which we must do more to address.

I listened to the concerns of teachers over the impact of school closures on children and the need to get them back to school in a safe way.

Coronavirus is still having a devastating effect in the West Midlands: businesses are among the worst hit of any region, a third of care homes have had an outbreak of the virus and the death toll continues to rise.

That’s why this week I laid down a marker to Boris Johnson. He has got to get a grip and restore public confidence in the weeks ahead. If we see the infection rate go back up, or a swathe of local lockdowns, responsibility lies squarely at his door.

I will keep listening to communities in the West Midlands about how they are coping and how Labour can rebuild trust. I will keep holding these meetings, and unusually for a political leader I don’t want them to be easy. I want people to challenge me.

There are massive challenges ahead for Labour and for our country. But I will do everything possible to help keep people safe, will keep listening and keep fighting for a better future.

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