Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner Meet Members
On 15th April Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner held a video conference call with members on Zoom. Several members of our CLP joined in, along with around 11,000 other members.
After a little hiccup at the beginning when for some reason the Zoom camera focused solely on Angela when Keir was speaking, the call progressed smoothly with Angela and Keir answering questions from members. They had received thousands of questions prior to and during the call, so obviously could only focus on certain areas.
Before the questions started, Keir and Angela talked generally about how we as a party continue to operate in this very strange situation. They called for Labour members to do what we do best – organise on a voluntary basis to help others, to be part of our communities and offer support.
Keir stressed that after COVID-19 we must make the case for change; he said repeatedly throughout the call that we cannot go back to business as usual, the economy must change and we must not reintroduce austerity. He came back again and again to the theme of unity, emphasizing how he and Angela were a united team at the top and wanted to model the way for members. We cannot go on the way we are, he stressed, “taking lumps out of one another”.
He and Angela spoke of the need for the leadership to be accountable to the membership and pledged to go round the country holding meetings with members once we were out of lockdown. He referred to his pride in being elected Labour leader and spoke warmly of his team, the most diverse shadow cabinet (in fact, cabinet) ever.
Questions were asked on a variety of topics, though focused largely on the response to COVID-19. Keir emphasized that he was keen to work positively with the government as we want them to succeed in beating this virus; however, the party will not shrink from asking hard questions. In answer to a question we would do differently if we were in government: Keir said he hoped we would have been quicker to respond but he also pointed out that how the decade of austerity had affected our resilience and damaged our ability to deal with such a crisis – any government would struggle under the circumstance. Angela commented that Jeremy Corbyn had been proved right in his analysis of the impact of austerity.
Keir spoke of the damage climate change was doing and of how this has been ignored; he was adamant that the Green New Deal must be “hardwired” into the economy and that the state must be a key player in dealing with climate change. He asserted that we should take the opportunity, once the virus has been dealt with, to make changes in the economic model; it was not working even before the virus. He spoke of common ownership – not top-down nationalization but new models of democratic public ownership. We must be bold, like the 1945 Labour government, and give the state a bigger role, not just leave it to the private sector.
The question of the leaked report into the mishandling of anti-Semitism complaints was addressed head on. Keir and Angela spoke of how they were shocked by the content of the report and promised that the inquiry into its provenance, leaking and content would be swift and independent.
Keir talked of the role of key workers in keeping the country running; he was adamant that they must not be forgotten once the crisis has eased, making specific references to pay rates and speaking positively of the role of immigrants in key frontline posts and referring to the scandal of Windrush.
What is the takeaway from this talk? Well, Angela Rayner is a star – relaxed, warm and funny. She comes across as a real person. Keir is less relaxed in such situations, but is clearly very bright and is saying many of the right things. And, most importantly, they look like they are genuinely a united team, which is essential if they want to model behaviour they want the party to follow.
By Sarah Chapman
Hertford & Stortford CLP