Keir Starmer addresses community concerns via series of Zoom video calls
- Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, launches his "Call Keir" listening exercise in Bury
- Bury is part of the Labour heartlands which fell to the Conservatives in December's general election
- Our NQ reporter Zoomed in to the meeting to ask the Labour Leader about his plans for Northern communities
Labour leader Keir Starmer addressed the issues affecting Bury residents today, in what he promises will be a series of “cross-community Zoom calls” across the nation, in a bid to address concerns at a local level, especially concerning the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
He began the call-in by jokingly referring to Zoom as being “the new normal” and addressing his desire to be a non-elusive figure in modern politics.
“The power and authority to make decisions that affect people like yourselves needs to be shifted away from Westminster and directly into the localities,” he said.
He also expressed his interest in coming to see communities face-to-face once the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were lifted, which was applauded by attendees.
The call took place at 1:30pm on Thursday 30thApril for an hour, with Starmer and his team taking questions via both Q&A and video chat format, live from London.
Key issues raised in the meeting, with people from various pockets of the tight-knit Bury area joining in on the conversation, included the coronavirus pandemic, how local businesses are being impacted by shutting their doors in order to isolate safely and the plight of the National Health Service in such unprecedented times.
Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus pandemic dominated the discussions throughout the call and I had the opportunity of personally asking Keir Starmer my question, as a student journalist on behalf of the Northern Quota, about how small businesses in the neighbourhood would recover from lockdown measures:
“Covid-19 is presenting challenges for people from all walks of life, but especially for local businesses in the Bury area, with many who need that sole income source desperately to keep afloat during such unparalleled circumstances.
My question is how can the government, and especially politicians or even leaders like yourself, reassure these local businesses that they will not become one of the many casualties of a poor lockdown exit strategy amidst the coronavirus pandemic, even when things go - quote unquote - back to normal?”
Starmer agreed that the lockdown exit strategy needed to be “a marathon, not a sprint” and that, whilst he understood the anxieties of communities awaiting a return to normality, lifting the lockdown measures sooner than necessary would be “detrimental” to the work done so far in tackling the spread of the virus.
He followed this up by paying tribute to key workers in the NHS, social workers, and care home staff, saying their hard work and perseverance in treating those testing positive for Covid-19 “should not fall to the wayside in a rushed attempt at things going back to normal.”
The conversation then turned towards how the new Labour leader would bring back former supporters who had lost faith in the party during the General Election last year.
Teacher, Siobhan, simply asked: “How do we know what the Labour Party stands for?”
Starmer said the party should not be underestimated as a force of good, citing the creation of the NHS, peace in Northern Ireland and investments into the SureStart programme as examples. But he acknowledged that people did not trust the Labour Party as “a source of good” amidst recent in-party developments.
Bury South resident, Matthew, followed this up with a point on the subject of Brexit and patriotism within the Labour party, asking how Starmer would reassure Labour supporters would not feel “penalised” by certain MPs for voting Leave, citing Member of Parliament for Norwich South and former Labour leader contender, Clive Lewis, as an example.
Starmer agreed that voting Brexit “does not automatically make you a racist person,” and that grown-up conversations needed to be had surrounding such issues as “so many social, cultural and political factors are at play”
He added to this by agreeing with Matthew that “everybody should not be painted with the same brush,” regardless of voting for Leave or Remain and that “uncomfortable discussions around these issues can often expose that we agree on more of the same points more than oppose.”
Overall, this community-focused strategy has proven very effective for the new Labour leader so far, with attendees thanking Starmer for taking time out of his day to speak to them on “what matters most to us.”
To find out about future Call Keir meetings, check for news on social media:
- Twitter: @keir_starmer @labournorthwest @labour @uklabour
- Facebook: The Labour Party