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Keir Starmer pledges to ‘smash the class ceiling’

Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar | Alamy

Keir Starmer pledges to ‘smash the class ceiling’

Keir Starmer has pledged to “smash the class ceiling” that he says is holding working people back.   

During a visit to Scotland, the Labour leader has set his sights on ending the “disconnect” between voters and politics and wants his party to return to “the service of working people”.   

Writing in The Scotsman, he said that in the past Labour “was afraid to speak the language of class” but has pledged this will not be the case under his leadership.   

Under a Labour government Starmer wants “every family” to feel supported to “get on”. However, he has come in for criticism recently after he U-turned on his pledge to the scrap the two-child benefit cap – which prevents parents from claiming child tax credit or universal credit for third or subsequent children.   

The policy has been labelled “heinous” by Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and it is also opposed by the party’s Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election candidate Michael Shanks. 

However, speaking to reporters yesterday the Labour leader said he has a "very, very strong working relationship" with Anas Sarwar and “anybody who’s trying to find division is going to have a very, very long search”. 

The SNP’s candidate in the by-election, Katy Loudon, branded the claims “ludicrous”. 

She said: “It only takes seconds to find the glaringly obvious divisions between Starmer, and his Scottish branch office. It is ludicrous to suggest otherwise.” 

Starmer will visit Rutherglen and Hamilton West later today where he will meet Shanks, before taking part in an ‘in conversation’ event with Sarwar.   

Setting out how a Labour government’s plans for Scotland, Starmer wrote in The Scotsman: “Can you look around your community today and say, with the certainty you deserve, that the future will be better for your children? 

“Working people I speak with have their doubts – and that’s putting it mildly. From Kirkcaldy to Glasgow, Inverness to Rutherglen, they all tell me how little trust they have in politics to change things for them. And, if I’m totally frank, this extends to my Labour Party. Countless people tell me they support Labour values. Yet they remain unconvinced that we – or, for that matter, Britain itself – still offer the way forward for Scotland or their community. 

“And it means striking a new deal that will strengthen workers’ rights and finally make work pay. No more zero-hour contracts, no more fire and rehire, and a real living wage for everyone. That is how a Labour government in Westminster can secure growth that works for Scotland. 

“Everything I have done since becoming Labour leader should be viewed as a direct response to this this disconnect. My political project is to return Labour to the service of working people and working-class communities. There may have been times in the recent past where Labour was afraid to speak the language of class at all – but not my Labour Party. No, for me, smashing the ‘class ceiling’ that holds working people back is our defining purpose. 

“Because you cannot seriously take on inequality, or poverty, or the pernicious idea that circumstances – who you are, where you come from, who you know – can still count for more than enterprise or imagination, without talking about class. This is personal. I want every family to feel that Britain will support people like them to get on. My family felt able to take that on faith – so should yours.” 

SNP depute Westminster leader Mhairi Black MP said: “Sir Keir Starmer ought to be embarrassed campaigning for a so-called fresh start in Scotland.

“The Labour leader has publicly signed up to a Tory manifesto for the status quo - more Westminster austerity, more economic carnage and more misery for Scottish households.

“During his trip to Scotland, Sir Keir must answer what a fresh start means for Scotland and for Rutherglen and Hamilton West which has been hammered by Brexit to the tune of £156 million and where almost 15,00 households are affected by the two child cap.

“We can no doubt expect more hollow words and empty promises from the pro-Brexit and pro-austerity Labour leader.”


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