LABOUR leader Sir Keir Starmer kicked off his party’s campaigning for the general election year with a speech in Emersons Green.
The media event was held at the National Composites Centre at the Bristol & Bath Science Park on January 4 – just a day before Chris Skidmore, whose constituency includes the factory, resigned.
The Labour leader told an invited audience of journalists, Labour party activists and business figures he was there to deliver “a New Year message of hope”, promising to “lift the weight off our shoulders, unite as a country, and get our future back”.
He was introduced by Claire Hazelgrove, the party’s candidate for the Filton & Bradley Stoke constituency that Emersons Green will become part of at the next general election.
Also in the audience were Labour MP Darren Jones, Metro Mayor Dan Norris and Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees.
Saying that the country faced “a year of choice”, Sir Keir said: “The opportunity to shape our country’s future rests in your hands.”
But the Leader of the Opposition said that what kept him up at night was “the shrug of the shoulder”, adding: “Trust in politics is now so low, so degraded, that nobody believes you can make a difference anymore.”
Pledging to “clean up politics”, with a “crackdown on cronyism”, he also promised to end the “exhausting” politics of division and replace it with “a politics that aspires to national unity”.
After the event the Voice asked the Labour leader about two specific issues facing the area.
Firstly, we asked what a Labour government would do about stalled infrastructure projects like the delayed schools in Lyde Green, plans for a new junction 18a on the M4 and a mass transit system for Bristol.
Pledging to “put power in the hands of local people”, he said: “We will push power and decision making out of Westminster so those with skin in the game can have a say on road, rail and infrastructure plans in their area.”
Secondly we asked whether an incoming Labour government would address funding for the district’s schools, which are given the lowest amount per pupil in the country – an issue on which head teachers and the Labour co-chair of South Gloucestershire Council have launched a campaign.
Sir Keir did not give a direct answer to the question but said a Labour government “will ensure that whatever school your child might go to, they have a high-quality education”.
He said removing tax breaks for private schools would help improve state schools.
While entrance to the event was subject to strict security, outside a group of demonstrators protested over the Labour leader’s stance on the Israeli invasion of Gaza following the Hamas attacks of last October.