A SENIOR Labour figure has insisted Keir Starmer "still embodies classic Labour" after the party leader said didn’t care if he sounded conservative. 

In a speech on Saturday, Starmer said the Labour Party would have to “change our entire culture” and compared his efforts to reform the party to former prime minister Sir Tony Blair’s symbolic rewriting of Clause Four “on steroids”.

In the same speech, he said he “doesn’t care” if the party’s priorities sounded conservative which led to First Minister Humza Yousaf branding Labour a “replica” of the Tories.

Starmer said: "Somebody has got to stand up for the things that make this country great and it isn’t going to be the Tories."

Appearing on Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg, Labour’s shadow energy secretary Jonathan Reynolds was asked exactly what the Labour leader meant with his comments on Clause 4 which, as the host explained, was a reference to when Labour previously dropped its commitment to "nationalising everything". 

Reynolds explained: “It means if you look at the scale of the challenge an incoming Labour government would have it is, I would argue, bigger than any other point in British history.

“We’ve had an economy that hasn’t performed as it should have for 13 years, we’ve got public services where, let’s be frank, are there any public services working better than 13 years ago when the Conservatives came to power?

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“Keir is making clear; we see the challenge is very big but don’t underestimate our determination to meet that challenge.”

‘I don’t care if I sound conservative’

Starmer came in for fierce criticism for his comment that he does not care if he “sounds conservative”.

Kuenssberg put it to Reynolds that Starmer sounded like someone who would say “almost anything” in order to be elected.

Reynolds replied: “First of all let me just be clear about this reference. What Keir was asking was what is it the Conservative Party actually conserves because it’s not the NHS, it’s not the BBC, it’s not out waterways full of filthy sewage, it’s not the nation, it’s not family life.

The National: Starmer came in for criticism for his recent commentsStarmer came in for criticism for his recent comments

“He was pointing out that to meet the things, to celebrate the things, to defend the things that make this country great, it’s the Labour agenda that will do that.

“On Keir personally, I voted for Keir Starmer, I wanted someone who could be the prime minster and do it for the right reasons. Be in public service for the right reasons and he embodies that and that hasn’t changed and I think simply taking the statement and values he had in that leadership contest but recognising we’ve had things like the pandemic and that’s hit how much money there is to spend on public services.

“We’ve got to recognise the environment we’re in.”

He added there would be “limitations” on an incoming Labour government but that Starmer was the same person he initially supported.

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard said that “the whole pitch of Labour is deeply depressing”.

He told The National: “At a time when the people are crying out for change Labour goes out of its way to say it’ll keep the same. 

“Keir Starmer is making Tony Blair look like a radical. Thankfully here in Scotland we have an alternative in the SNP campaigning for policies Labour used to believe and striving to let people here take control of their own country.”

The National: Tommy Sheppard was among those to criticise StarmerTommy Sheppard was among those to criticise Starmer

For example, Starmer recently U-turned on his commitment to abolish tuition fees. 

Free tuition is available to those students who are ordinarily resident in Scotland and Humza Yousaf said that there would be “no movement at all” from the Scottish Government on this. 

Meanwhile, Scottish Greens MSP Maggie Chapman reeled off the various positions Starmer has “mimicked” the Tories on. 

She said: “In the last few months we’ve seen Keir Starmer mimic Tory positions on immigration, refugees, university tuition, wealth redistribution, public ownership, picket lines, the right to protest, the monarchy, LGBT+ rights and Scottish democracy. 

“When someone tells you who they are, you should believe them.”

Attracting voters

Asked about the view that the Labour leader in fact sounds like a Conservative politician, Reynolds told the BBC: “I think it is incumbent on any political party that’s had a defeat as significant as 2019 to look at itself and say we’re going to have to attract some voters back who didn’t vote for us last time.

“And I want people who voted Conservative last time to look again at the Labour Party, look at their own priorities and say yes it is Labour who better represent that.

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"We need to look long and hard at the state of the UK's democracy. That doesn’t mean we’re not embodying what is a classic Labour offer, I think that is fundamentally what Keir Starmer is about – a stronger set of employment rights, a better industrial policy, rebuilding the NHS, opportunity for all.

“He’s been clear on his ambitions but of course we’ll want to attract as wide a coalition of support for that as possible.”