Keir Starmer vowed to back ‘woke’ charities today as he waded into culture wars – and attacked Margaret Thatcher’s ‘no such thing as society’ refrain.
In a speech at a civil society summit in central London, the Labour leader said the government was engaged in ‘McCarthyism’ by trying to find ‘woke agendas’ in British civic institutions.
Highlighting criticism of the RNLI and National Trust, Sir Keir said the voice of charities had been ‘ignored’ and he wanted to create a ‘Society of Service’.
He also took aim at the Tory doyenne, just months after he sparked a bitter backlash from his own activists by praising her contribution.
‘One Conservative Prime Minister said there was ‘no such thing as society.’ And then we watched individualism run rampant,’ Sir Keir said.
Keir Starmer attacked Margaret Thatcher’s ‘no such thing as society’ refrain today as he accused minister of ‘sabotaging’ charities
In a speech at a civil society summit in central London , Sir Keir said the government was engaged in ‘McCarthyism’ by trying to find ‘woke agendas’ in British civic institutions
Sir Keir said the voice of charities had been ‘ignored’ and he wanted to create a ‘Society of Service’
‘Cameron talked about the Big Society. A great idea, in principle. But when austerity kicked in, we ended up with the Poor Society.
‘Now we need a new vision for a new era. A renewed social contract. A new focus on those who build the bonds that connect us, the communities that nurture us, and the local institutions that support us.’
Last month Sir Keir was roasted by Labour activists after he hailed Baroness Thatcher for acting to ‘drag Britain out of its stupor by setting loose our natural entrepreneurialism’.
The comments were the latest effort to distance himself from the Corbyn era, as both parties push towards an election this year.
But critics pointed out that Sir Keir once represented striking miners for free as a lawyer, and backed nationalisations of key infrastructure.
And the Corbynite Momentum group said that Sir Keir had ‘brought shame on the party’ with the remarks.
In his speech at the Civil Society Summit this morning, the Labour leader said the Conservatives were waging a war on ‘the proud spirit of service in this country’.
Sir Keir said: ‘The Tory Party has undertaken a kind of weird McCarthyism, trying to find woke agendas in the very civic institutions they once regarded with respect.’
He said the Tories seem set on on ‘sabotaging civil society to save their own skin’, adding: ‘It’s desperate, it’s divisive, it’s damaging.’
However, Rishi Sunak claimed Sir Keir’s speech was an attempt to ‘distract’ from his lack of policies.
The PM told broadcasters Sir Keir ‘can’t actually say what he would do differently to run this country’.
‘That’s because he doesn’t have a plan – can’t say how he’d bring the number of small boat arrivals down, can’t say how he would fund his £28 billion green spending spree which just means higher taxes,’ Mr Sunak said.
‘And the contrast is clear. Our plan is working. The boat numbers are coming down, the longest waits in the NHS have been virtually eliminated and this month we’re cutting people’s taxes.
‘So if we stick with the plan, we can build a brighter future. The alternative is just to go back to square one with Keir Starmer, he doesn’t have a plan and he can’t tell you what he would do differently.’
Rishi Sunak claimed Sir Keir’s speech was an attempt to ‘distract’ from his lack of policies