THE Tories and Labour have each claimed the other is “populist” amid a row ahead of Keir Starmer’s first major speech of 2024.

In an address aimed at kicking off the likely election year by drawing dividing lines with Rishi Sunak’s Conservative party, Starmer is set to urge voters to reject “pointless populist gestures”.

In a visit to the West of England, the Labour leader will further claim the Tories have “no practical achievements to point towards” after nearly 14 years running the UK Government.

Sunak will also take to the road on Wednesday, with a rival new year stump speech planned in the East Midlands.

In his pitch to voters, Starmer will say he understands why people have turned against politicians, amid various Westminster scandals and a ramping up of political attacks between the parties ahead of the next nationwide poll.

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The Labour leader will say: “You can reject the pointless populist gestures and the low-road cynicism that the Tories believe is all you deserve.

“That’s all they have left now. After 14 years, with nothing good to show, no practical achievements to point towards, no purpose beyond the fight to save their own skins.

“They can’t change Britain, so they try to undermine the possibility of change itself.”

He will promise to “clean up politics” of sleaze, adding: “No more VIP fast lanes, no more kickbacks for colleagues, no more revolving doors between Government and the companies they regulate.

“I will restore standards in public life with a total crackdown on cronyism: this ends now.”

But responding, Tory chair Richard Holden said Starmer’s consistent U-turns showed he was a true populist.

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“Nothing is more cynical and populist than a weathervane Labour leader who has a consistent track record of telling people whatever he thinks they want to hear on any given day,” Holden said.

“He was for a second Brexit referendum, then he wasn’t. He told Labour members when he was running to be leader he would nationalise industry and scrap tuition fees, but then dropped these policies as soon as the contest was over. And he says he opposes Jeremy Corbyn now despite campaigning twice to make him prime minister and calling him his ‘friend’.

“The only thing we know for certain about Keir Starmer is that he has a £28 billion black hole in his spending promises which will mean thousands of pounds of tax rises every year for families.”

In his speech, Starmer will point to his legal career as a record of his anti-sleaze zeal, claiming he helped send both Labour and Tory “cheat politicians” to jail in the wake of the 2009 expenses scandal, while serving as the director of public prosecutions.

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He will also mention having worked with “people living on death row”, a reference to his legal work on Caribbean death row cases in the early 2000s.

The Labour leader will continue to draw a dividing line with his predecessor Corbyn, while seeking to demonstrate to voters he will offer a fresh start from the Conservatives.

Starmer will add: “So, whether you’re thinking of voting Labour for the first time, whether you always vote Labour, or whether you have no intention of voting Labour whatsoever: my party will serve you.

“That’s who we are now, a changed Labour Party. No longer in thrall to gesture politics, no longer a party of protest, but a party of service.”