New Labour leader Keir Starmer says he wants to ‘win back’ trust of voters in Wrexham and across North Wales
The new leader of the Labour Party says he wants to “win back” the trust of voters in Wrexham.
Sir Keir Starmer said he was keen to listen to why people in the area chose to switch to the Conservatives after he topped last month’s leadership poll.
It follows his party’s crushing defeat in December’s general election, which saw Wrexham and Clwyd South turn blue for the first time ever.
Yesterday the former director of public prosecutions reached out to members of the public from both constituencies through a virtual meeting, “Call Keir”, where they had the chance to question him directly.
The topics covered ranged from local issues, such as a lack of public transport, to problems over Labour’s stance on Brexit and the allegations of anti-semitism which rocked the party in the build up to the election.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the session, Sir Keir admitted the loss of several former safe seats in North Wales had been difficult to take.
He said: “There was a palpable sense of shock on that night in December and I know for the Labour Party, we never want to go through a night like that again.
“I think there were a number of reasons that came up. People raised with me things like the leadership, the Brexit position and what they saw as the overload of the manifesto.
“But in the end, underpinning that was a basic question of trust. I don’t think people in Wrexham or across North Wales think that things are fine and don’t want things to change.
“I think they do want them to change – I think they just lost faith in the Labour Party as the party to bring about change in that general election.
“The point of these Call Keir exercises is to let people tell me in their own words why it was they didn’t vote Labour.”
During last night’s meeting, which was hosted on Zoom, Sir Keir faced a number of tough questions.
They included one from a Wrexham man who had voted Labour all his life, but switched to the Tories in December as he felt local party politicians had not listened to him when he was fighting for support for his son’s mental health.
The former shadow Brexit secretary said it was the party’s job to ensure it represented the interests of voters again.
Sir Keir said: “My strong sense is that if I am truly to restore trust in the Labour Party, I have to be prepared to listen to what people have to say to me rather than go to them a few weeks before that election pretending we’ve got the answers to issues.
“The other thing about Wrexham and parts of North Wales is we’ve got to be honest about the fact this has been a gradual process across a number of years.
“That wasn’t just a bad night in December, it was actually something more fundamental.
“I think a number of people did lend their vote to the Conservatives and I think that’s also what the Prime Minister thinks.
“It’s not their job to come back to the Labour Party – we’ve got to win that vote back and that’s what we’re determined to do.”
Brexit was one of the most prevalent issues raised in the approach to the election, with many people saying they either disagreed with or did not understand Labour’s stance on leaving the EU.
As someone heavily involved in shaping that position, Sir Keir acknowledged it had caused problems in areas like Wrexham, where 59 per cent of people voted to leave.
He said: “I accept there was criticism of our Brexit policy on the doorstep and I don’t think it would be fair of me to say otherwise.
“I know from talking to people in Wrexham how it was coming up there.
“As far as Brexit is concerned, whether you voted Leave or Remain, that divide is now over because we have left.
“Therefore, it’s very important for us all in the Labour Party to recognise we have left and that Leave/Remain as a divide or argument is over and we’ve got to all face the future together.”
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter
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