Starmer: I’m a socialist and progressive who will always put country first

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Keir Starmer has insisted that he is a socialist and a progressive, but said the country does not have the money to allow him to fulfil some of the pledges he made during the 2020 Labour leadership race.

Starmer, who has been under increasing pressure to spell out whether he will raise tuition fees if Labour wins the election, made a personal speech in Lancing, West Sussex, on Monday, reflecting on how his working class upbringing has informed his politics.

He said his parents had to choose between not paying their telephone bills and going into debt, which meant he understood the importance of economic stability.

He later insisted that he had kept “most” of the 10 key pledges he made during his leadership bid to succeed Jeremy Corbyn, but said he was being honest with the electorate about the damage that had been done to the economy, instead of “pretending like very many politicians” and later breaking a promise.

When asked by the Guardian if he would rule out raising tuition fees, following warnings from vice-chancellors and former ministers that universities will be at risk of bankruptcy without increased funding, he did not directly answer the question.

He told Sky News after his speech: “I said that we should abolish tuition fees. Now with the damage that’s been done to the economy, particularly by Liz Truss, it is not possible to do that … I think that is basic honesty with the electorate.

“I think it’s more important to stand in front of the electorate and say, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t now afford what I said before because of the damage done to the economy’ … What I’m saying to the electorate is this: I’m going to tell you in advance of the election what I don’t think we can afford to do.”

Carol Monaghan, the SNP’s education spokesperson and candidate for Glasgow North West, said: “Keir Starmer must come clean and admit he’s planning to increase university tuition fees. This growing Westminster threat to students shows why it’s essential to vote SNP to defend free university tuition and put the interests of Scotland first.

“With the Tories and Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour party both saddling students with sky-high debts, it’s only the SNP that are standing up for young people and their families. It’s no surprise that more and more young people are finding it impossible to buy a house or start a family when they are swimming in debt imposed on them by Westminster.

“At the general election, the SNP is the only party that will protect students and defend free education, which has left graduates in Scotland thousands of pounds better off. A vote for the SNP is a vote to always put Scotland’s interests first.”

Starmer used the speech to underline his commitment to what he repeatedly referred to as “working people”, saying his government would establish a “non-negotiable pact” with British voters.

But the strength of the Labour leader’s promises have been called into question during the course of the campaign. Starmer has been accused of “betrayal” by the left of the party after shifting away from the platform he stood on four years ago.

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Speaking to the BBC on Monday, he insisted he was a socialist, but someone who would place the needs of the nation before the interests of his party.

He said: “I would describe myself as a socialist. I describe myself as a progressive. I’d describe myself as somebody who always puts the country first and party second.

“I know there are countless people who haven’t decided how they’ll vote in this election. They’re fed up with the failure, chaos and division of the Tories, but they still have questions about us: has Labour changed enough? Do I trust them with my money, our borders, our security? My answer is, yes, you can, because I have changed this party, permanently.”


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