Starmer: Working-class background gave me ‘hope’ and ‘impatience’

Sir Keir Starmer leaned on his working-class background to cast Labour as party of aspiration as he made his leader’s speech to the party conference in Liverpool.

The Labour leader has often referred to his upbringing as the son of a toolmaker and a nurse. But in his speech on Tuesday he developed this theme further, saying growing up working class in the 1970s had given him both hope and impatience.

In a personal section of his speech, he said: “I remember what rising prices feel like. I remember when our phone was cut off because we couldn’t pay the bill. How hard it is to make ends meet. It wasn’t easy.

“But there’s something else I remember about being working class in the 1970s: hope.

“Not a grandiose, utopian dream kind of hope. A hope that was ordinary, basic, taken for granted. Because like all families, although we had our ups and downs, my parents never doubted for one second that things would get better.”

He added: “They worked their socks off and gave me the gift of opportunity. That gift drives me to make sure no one, anywhere in this country, is held back by their circumstances.”

Sir Keir went on to say his background had given him an impatience that drove him as both a lawyer and a politician.

He said: “If you’re born without privilege, you don’t have time for messing around.

“You don’t walk around problems without fixing them, and you don’t surrender to the instincts of organisations that won’t face up to change.”

Linking these themes, he promised to restore hope to working people whose spirit had been “ground down” after “12 long years”, saying families would be able to “aspire again, look forward with hope again” after the first term of a Labour government.

Labour Party Conference 2022
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer, with his wife Victoria, leaves the stage after giving his keynote address during the party’s conference (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Labour leader returned several times to the theme of aspiration, mentioning the word seven times in his 50-minute speech.

This included a promise to “back working people’s aspiration” on home ownership, which saw Sir Keir return again to his background and comment that the “pebble-dashed semi” he grew up in “meant everything to my family”.

His comments appeared to be a direct response to Conservative pledges to create an “aspiration nation”.

In her first appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions on September 7, Liz Truss claimed Sir Keir did not “understand aspiration”.

But on Tuesday the Labour leader said it was the Conservatives who did not understand aspiration, saying they had “chocked it off for working people”.

Referring to the mini-budget on Friday, Sir Keir said: “Make no mistake about it, in one bold move on Friday the Tory party gave up on any claim it may have had to be a party of aspiration.”