The Labour Party leader held his “Call Kier” event with Glaswegians to let them put forward questions, points and views to the Labour leader, with Scottish independence being the dominant issue.
On Friday 23 October, Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the UK Labour Party held a “Call Keir” event with the people of Glasgow.
The event entailed a short Zoom webinar for people to put forward their questions or points of view to the current Labour leader. Starmer stated that the reason for the event was to hear what people have to say, particularly looking towards the Scottish parliamentary election in 2021 and the United Kingdom general election in 2024. Individuals were told to be blunt and say exactly what it is they want him to think about.
In the duration of the call, Starmer answered questions based on restoring the trust of the Scottish Labour party with the electorate by answering on issues such as Scottish independence and the means by which Labour is approaching Covid-19.
When Starmer was asked how Labour plans to gain supporters who have previously defected to the SNP, Starmer outlined that he wished to bring people back to the party by listening to them. Keir Starmer stated that in his previous roles as shadow Brexit secretary and shadow immigration minister, he has had success in making a persuasive case and ensuring trust by listening to what issues people are prioritising, or worried about and using this as a case for his ability to represent the people.
However, when asked whether Labour policy would change to support the SNP’s and the Green’s call for Scottish independence in order to gain back electorate support, Starmer declined. He stated that he does not support the breaking up of the United Kingdom and that in the current climate of the pandemic, we need to be supporting the “pulling-together” of borders rather than breaking them apart. Acknowledging this, Starmer did put forward the argument for “taking back control” and advocated for moving power closer to people in their own community and areas, as both Holyrood and Westminster are still too localised.
Starmer also outlined his impression of the government response to Covid-19 during the event. He defended his position as opposition party by stating that due to the current pandemic, the Labour party would support the government as they are invested in doing the right thing for the interest of the public; it should not be politicised. However, when criticised for opposing the government’s Covid-19 policy, Starmer believed that he is “duty-bound to criticise where the government gets it wrong”. He outlined that there are only two areas where the Labour Party has majorly criticised the government: test-and-trace and the decision not to have a circuit break in England, but instead follow a tiered system. The reasoning for the latter was that the scientists had advised for a circuit break; the government did not take that advice, and Starmer described scientists as the “anchor” in order to get the pandemic back under control.
One of Starmer’s final points was looking towards the 2024 general election. He claimed that he wanted to create a more caring and inclusive political system, especially following the Conservative vote against the extension of the free school meals bill to cover this half term. Starmer stated that if Labour was successful in the 2024 general election, they would not only address the issue by keeping a free school meals policy in action, but they would also deal with the underlying economic unfairness in society.
Overall, “Call to Keir, Glasgow” focused on an attempt to redeem Labour among the people of Glasgow by listening to the issues that they prioritise. Starmer approached the topics of Covid-19 and his impression of the government’s decisions candidly. However, it does seem that the issue of Scottish independence will remain a crux for the support of Scottish Labour in the future, as this was the most discussed topic throughout the call.
Although the current opinion polls clearly show that people are broadly swaying towards independence, Starmer claimed that “people’s opinions change” and that this is not the priority of the United Kingdom during the current pandemic and economic crisis.