Protester interrupts Keir Starmer’s Labour party manifesto launch speech

Sir Keir Starmer vowed that Labour was preparing to be a “party of power” rather than one of protest as a heckler interrupted his manifesto launch speech on Thursday.

As the climate protester was hustled out by security guards at the event in Manchester, the Labour leader declared that he had “turned the page” after the party went down to a shattering defeat under Jeremy Corbyn in 2019.

"We gave up being a party of protest five years ago. We want to be a party of power,” he said to applause. "That’s not in the script but that is part of the change."Sir Keir is a “sober and serious” leader who as PM would put economic growth at the heart of government, one of his closest allies said earlier.

Ahead of Labour’s “Plan to Change the Country” manifesto being launched, the party’s national campaign co-ordinator Pat McFadden stressed that voters would get to know what it would do if it wins the general election on July 4, amid accusations that Labour has failed to lay out a clear blueprint.

Mr McFadden told GB News: “It will set out a responsible, costed plan to change the country, start to get the waiting lists down, have more teachers in our school, secure our borders, start on that transition to cleaner energy, start growing the economy.

“That last point is for us the missing piece in this election debate.

“We have had a lot of debates about the government’s budget, we haven’t actually had a debate about how to have a stronger economy and that is going to be at the heart of the manifesto that we are publishing.”

A protester holds a banner at the launch of the Labour Party's manifesto, in Manchester (REUTERS)
A protester holds a banner at the launch of the Labour Party's manifesto, in Manchester (REUTERS)

But pressed about the Sky TV debate, and one of the audience members suggesting Sir Keir is a “political robot” and claims that he is “Blair without the Flair”, Mr McFadden, who was a Blair aide in 1997, responded: “It’s different times.

“After the chaos that we have had over the past few years, five Prime Ministers, seven Chancellors, all the changes in policy, a mad mini-Budget...a sober, serious leader is exactly what the country needs right now.

“I don’t think he is trying to be in the entertainment business.

“He is trying to be a sober, serious leader and that is what he will be if he is elected on July 4.”

Ahead of the manifesto launch in Manchester, the Labour leader had already downplayed expectations of any new big fiscal announcements, stressing there would be “no tax surprises”.

As he seeks to seal the deal with millions more voters, Sir Keir was set to say that Labour would put “wealth creation” at the heart of government.

Labour has made economic stability the first of its six “first steps” for government.

But if it is basing its plans for government on economic growth, and this fails to materialise, then the public finances could be hit.

One of Thursday’s headline announcement, though, was expected to include a pledge to cap corporation tax at its current rate of 25 per cent to give businesses long-term certainty, the latest in a series of pledges not to raise tax.

Labour has already ruled out raising rates of income tax, national insurance or VAT, and said the manifesto will contain no tax rises that have not already been announced.

Those increases are charging VAT on private school fees, abolishing the non-dom tax status and closing “loopholes” in the windfall tax on oil and gas companies.


But Labour has not ruled out other future tax rises.

As well as pledges on tax, the manifesto is set to include promises to “unleash investment” through GB Energy, a new state-owned body investing in clean power, and reforming planning rules to help build new infrastructure and 1.5 million new homes.

There will be more powers for local government as part of a commitment to devolve decision-making away from Westminster, and a series of measures to overhaul workers’ rights.

Labour’s six “first steps” have featured heavily on the campaign trail so far and are likely to form the centrepiece of the manifesto as well.

On top of the pledge to provide economic stability, those first steps include cutting NHS waiting lists with 40,000 new appointments per week, setting up a Border Security Command, establishing GB Energy, cracking down on antisocial behaviour and hiring 6,500 teachers.

On foreign policy, Labour has said it will keep backing Ukraine against Russia and support recognising a Palestinian state as part of a peace process in the Middle East.

The party has also said it will aim to spend 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence, but unlike the Tories has not put a date on reaching the target.

Conservative chairman Richard Holden repeated his party’s claim that Labour’s plans would see households pay another £2,000 in tax over the next four years.

He said: “Labour aren’t being honest with the public; they are refusing to say what they would really do because they know it would lose them votes.

“Labour will tax your family home, tax your pension, tax your job and tax your car and drag pensioners into the Retirement Tax.”

The Treasury has distanced itself from the Tory claim of a £38.5 billion blackhole in Labour’s plans, on which Rishi Sunak’s party bases its £2,000 Labour tax hit on households allegation.

It has also been criticised by independent fact checkers, and by the UK’s statistics watchdog as ministers have not made clear that it is a figure over four years, not an annual one.