KEIR Starmer took a pop at the “divisive” SNP during a speech setting out his stall ahead of the General Election.

Speaking in Bristol on Thursday, the UK Labour leader hit out at both the SNP and the Tories accusing them of fuelling the politics of “populism” and “nationalism” as a “distraction”.

Responding, SNP MP Stephen Flynn accused Starmer of comparing the views of "50% of Scots to the sort of populism promoted by Donald Trump", saying the comments would go down like a "bag of cold sick".

Starmer said during his New Year's speech he was “ready” to take on Rishi Sunak at the ballot box, adding that while a Labour government would look to lower taxes - the party would focus on growing the economy first.

He also admitted that the party’s planned £28 billion-a-year green energy investment could shrink.

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Starmer vowed to take a different approach to politics and target apathetic voters during the upcoming election campaign. 

Speaking at the event, he said: “I also promise this, a politics that treads a little lighter on our lives, because that is the thing about populism or nationalism, any politics fuelled by division.

“It needs your full attention, needs you constantly focusing on this week’s common energy, and that’s exhausting isn’t it?”

He added that doing politics in a way that “brings people together”, is “harder to express” and less likely to generate clicks on social media.

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Starmer (above) continued: “So no matter the road the Tories take this year, I believe that if people see the commitment to service is always there in politics, if they could see that people in power respect their concerns, then I think a lot of people across the country, after everything we’ve been through in the last 14 years, will find some hope in that.

“It will feel different, frankly. The character of politics will change and with it, the national mood, a collective breathing out, a burden lifted.

“And then, the space for a more hopeful look forward.

“The truth is, it’s this kind of politics, and only this kind of politics, that can offer real change.

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“The energy needed for divisive politics is a distraction.

“We can see that with the SNP in Scotland, or the Tories here in England.”

Earlier, Starmer had said the biggest challenge Labour faces at the next election is the “shrug of the shoulder”.

He added: “Because this is the paradox of British politics right now. Everyone agrees we are in a huge mess. Services on their knees, an economy that doesn’t work for working people, even when it grows, let alone when it stagnates like now.

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“Everyone agrees as well that it has been like this for a while, that Britain needs change, wants change, is crying out for change.

“And yet trust in politics is now so low, so degraded, that nobody believes you can make a difference any more.”

He added that he was under no illusion that the General Election is a “huge test” for Labour.

“We are trying not just to defeat the Tories, but to defeat their entire way of doing politics, a mindset that seeks out any differences between the people of this country, and like weeds between the paving stones will pull apart the cracks so ultimately they can divide and rule,” Starmer added.


“I have to warn you, they will leave no stone unturned this year, every opportunity for division will be exploited for political potential.”

The UK Labour leader also revealed that he would fight the next Westminster election on the Tories economic record, taking aim at Rishi Sunak’s (below) incompetence.

“We don’t just expect an election on the economy. We want an election on the economy and we’re ready for that fight, ready to close the book on the trickle-down nonsense once and for all,” he said.

He also pledged a “crackdown on cronyism”. It comes after reports suggested the party are likely to scale back a pledge to ban former ministers from lobbying jobs for five years.

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Earlier, Starmer had said he understood why voters were “anti-Westminster” after 13 years of Tory rule.

Asked by the BBC if he was talking down Westminster’s institutions with his criticisms of politics, Starmer said: “No, I am talking up the very institutions, the very politics that I believe in.

“I think that populism and nationalism thrive on division, and that drives a feeling of anti-Westminster, the sense that politicians are simply saying things to gain votes but not believing in what they are saying.

“I think that is the cynicism that I am pointing towards.”