Starmer accuses Tories of ‘fighting like rats in a sack’ as Sunak faces Rwanda rebellion

Tory psychodrama is ‘cultural stain’ running through the party, Labour leader will say in big speech

Adam Forrest
Political Correspondent
Saturday 09 December 2023 22:38 GMT
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Rwanda treaty has more holes in it than Swiss cheese, says Starmer

Keir Starmer will warn that Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives can no longer govern the county because warring camps are lost “fighting like rats in a sack”.

The Labour leader will launch a new appeal to voters this week by promising he “won’t let the Tories take the country down with them”.

Sir Keir will use a speech on Tuesday to vow that a united Labour has “fundamentally changed” and is now ready to rule Britain.

His bid to draw a clear dividing line with the Tories comes as Mr Sunak faces a brewing rebellion from his own MPs on his thwarted Rwanda deportation plan.

Tories on the right are awaiting the verdict of a “star chamber” of lawyers before deciding whether to oppose the prime minister’s emergency legislation because it does not seek to override the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

But more moderate Tories are weighing up whether they can support the bill – and how they might try to amend it – amid concerns about the attempt to compel courts to find Rwanda is a “safe” country to be sent asylum seekers.

In a speech on the same day as the scheduled vote, Sir Keir is expected to say: “While they’re all swanning around self-importantly, in their factions and their ‘star chambers’, fighting like rats in a sack, there’s a country out here that isn’t being governed.”

Keir Starmer will make a big speech on Tuesday, on the fourth anniversary of Labour’s thumping 2019 election defeat

The Labour leader will argue that the Tory psychodrama is not limited to Rwanda, but is a wider “cultural stain running through the modern Conservative Party”.

“It is time to come together, to turn the page on this miserable chapter of decline, and walk towards a decade of national renewal,” he is set to say.

“I have dragged this Labour Party back to service, and I will do the same to British politics. I won’t let the Tories drag our country down with them. We cannot and will not let them kick the hope out of our future.”

The speech is being arranged to coincide with the fourth anniversary of the general election in which Boris Johnson’s party crushed Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

But Sir Keir says his party is now “ready to serve” after a resurgence in which they are riding around 20 per cent points ahead of the Tories in the polls.

It comes as he attempted to calm the storm of criticism over his apparent praise for Margaret Thatcher by telling an audience in Scotland that she did “terrible things”.

The Labour leader faced backlash from the left for hailing Thatcher’s moves to boost Britain’s “entrepreneurialism”. But Sir Keir denied being a “fan” of her and said that he “profoundly disagrees” with some of her actions.

Mr Sunak has continued to argue that Sir Keir has no plan on migration as the PM comes under pressure over the £290m policy that has been grounded by legal challenges.

But Sir Keir will say that Labour is “totally focused on credible solutions” to the nation’s challenges as he argues he will always spend “wisely”.

“You know that this is a party that has fundamentally changed. Not just a paint job, but a total overhaul. A different Labour Party, driven by your values. By British values.”

The new Conservative party chairman Richard Holden accused Sir Keir of “planning to try and block our plans to stop the boats” and of lacking “the principles needed to lead Britain”.

“As usual Keir Starmer is saying what he thinks people want to hear – yet again taking the easy way out, rather than putting forward his own credible plans,” the MP said.

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