Keir Starmer repeatedly heckled during emotional Labour speech about his dead mother

·Freelance Writer
·5 min read

Watch: Starmer repeatedly heckled during Labour conference speech

Sir Keir Starmer faced repeated heckles as he opened up about his late mother during his first in-person conference speech as Labour leader.

Starmer arrived on stage in Brighton to cheers and wasted no time in attacking the Tories for their handling of coronavirus and the current petrol crisis.

But he then moved into more personal territory, speaking about his mother’s career as a nurse, as well as her difficulties with Still’s disease.

The Labour leader said his “family life taught me about the dignity of work and the nobility of care”.

After discussing how his father worked as a toolmaker, the Labour leader told the party conference about nurses keeping his mother alive in hospital as she lived with Still’s disease.

But after a conference which has seen him clash with the Labour left, hecklers repeatedly shouted at him as he spoke, with cries of “shame” and calls for the leadership to support a £15 minimum wage.

Sir Keir Starmer hit back at hecklers during his Labour conference speech.
Sir Keir Starmer hit back at hecklers during his Labour conference speech.

Starmer hit back at the hecklers in the conference, asking them: “Shouting slogans or changing lives?”

He had earlier faced more heckling as he acknowledged Labour’s historic defeat in the 2019 general election, with one person shouting: “It was your Brexit policy.”

But Starmer said the heckles did not bother him, telling the conference hall: “At this time on a Wednesday it’s normally the Tories that are heckling me, it doesn’t bother me then, and it doesn’t bother me now.”

After he insisted that “what this country needs is a serious leader”, a heckler could be heard shouting: “Where is Peter Mandelson?”

Sir Keir Starmer was heckled as he made his first in-person Labour conference speech as leader. (PA)
Sir Keir Starmer was heckled as he made his first in-person Labour conference speech as leader. (PA)

Just before, another person said: “Free Julian Assange!”

Dissenters in the hall could also be seen holding red cards while others stood and cheered on the Labour leader.

Further shouts of “£15-an-hour” could be heard in the hall as Starmer spoke about the need to help people in low-paid and insecure work.

Starmer’s conference speech is his first as leader in front of crowds after the pandemic forced him to make a virtual speech in 2020.

He spoke about the “two rocks” of his life – family and work – and insisted he was “not from a privileged background”.

He mentioned his of his father’s background, joking: “My dad was a toolmaker, although in a way so was Boris Johnson’s.”

On the current fuel crisis, he told supporters: “If you go outside and walk along the seafront, it won’t be long before you come to a petrol station that has got no fuel.

“Level up? You can’t even fill up.

Sir Keir Starmer was met with heckles while talking about his late mother. (PA)
Sir Keir Starmer was met with heckles while talking about his late mother. (PA)

“Doesn’t that just tell you everything about this government? Ignoring the problem, blaming someone else, then coming up with a half-baked solution.

“Why do we suddenly have a shortage of HGV drivers? Why is there no plan in place?”

He also contrasted his past as the head of the Crown Prosecution Service with the PM's background as a newspaper columnist.

“It’s easy to comfort yourself that your opponents are bad people,” he said.

Shadow chancellor of the exchequer Rachel Reeves (left) and deputy leader Angela Rayner alongside delegates ahead of leader Sir Keir Starmer's speech at the Labour Party conference in Brighton. Picture date: Wednesday September 29, 2021.
Shadow chancellor of the exchequer Rachel Reeves (left) and deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner ahead of Sir Keir Starmer's speech at the Labour Party conference in Brighton. (PA)

“But I don’t think Boris Johnson is a bad man. I think he is a trivial man. I think he’s a showman with nothing left to show. I think he’s a trickster who has performed his one trick.

“Once he had said the words: ‘Get Brexit Done’, his plan ran out. He has no plan.”

Despite a battle with the left of the party, Starmer’s highlighting of gains made under Tony Blair’s Labour government was received with a standing ovation at the party conference.

The Labour leader had offered the Tories “a lesson in levelling up” as he discussed his own party’s record on introducing a minimum wage, boosting education and bringing down hospital waiting times.

Sir Keir Starmer said Labour could win the next genera election. (PA)
Sir Keir Starmer said Labour could win the next general election. (PA)

Starmer insisted Labour could win the next election, adding: “This government can’t keep the fuel flowing, it can’t keep the shelves stocked, and you’ve seen what happens when Boris Johnson wants more money – he goes straight for the wallets of working people.

“Labour is the party that is on the side of working people.”

Starmer's speech brings an end to a Labour conference hit by controversy and bitterness from all sides of the party.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner’s tirade against the prime minister and his Cabinet on Saturday night, where she labelled them "scum", led to Starmer distancing himself from her remarks.

Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield’s decision to miss the conference because of fears about the abuse she has received over her position on trans issues also led to a series of uncomfortable questions for Starmer and his front bench team over her comment that "only women have cervixes".

Sir Keir Starmer poses with wife Victoria at the end of his speech. (PA)
Sir Keir Starmer poses with wife Victoria at the end of his speech. (PA)

Duffield has been branded “transphobic” by critics for her stance on women’s rights. Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said the debate had become “divisive and toxic”.

The leader’s decision to prioritise rule changes to how the leader is elected also angered some of his shadow cabinet colleagues and led to criticism that he was too focused on internal matters rather than speaking to the country.

The resignation of shadow cabinet minister and Jeremy Corbyn supporter Andy McDonald also appeared to be timed to cause maximum damage to Starmer.

Starmer also distanced himself from the Corbyn era during his speech – promising “we will never under my leadership go into an election with a manifesto that is not a serious plan for government”.

Watch: Starmer distances himself from Rayner's attack on Tory 'scum'

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