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UK needs to keep the pandemic spirit alive, Starmer tells congregation

27 September 2021

Sir Keir Starmer addresses the Labour Party Conference church service in Brighton, on Sunday morning

Sir Keir Starmer addresses the Labour Party Conference church service in Brighton, on Sunday morning

SOCIETY must harness the spirit of “togetherness” that it has shown during the pandemic, as the country faces food and fuel shortages, the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has said.

Speaking during the Labour Party Conference’s church service on Sunday morning, in One Church, a Baptist church, in Brighton, Sir Keir described Christians in his party as its “moral compass”.

He continued: “One of the things I’ve been profoundly struck by in the last 18 months is the fact that people have looked out for each other in a way I haven’t seen in my lifetime. The way people gently knocked on doors, got food for people, brought the homeless in, helped out where they could. . .

“For me, it’s probably one of the most important political moments since Thatcher said ‘There’s no such thing as society.’ It really is, because what it showed to me is that, when push comes to shove, when there is a crisis, actually, as humans, humanity trumps, and we pull together in an incredible way.”

Churches had played a central part in serving communities during the pandemic, he said, “whether that’s foodbanks, support, going out to our communities, even just knocking on the door and talking to people.

“The critical thing now, as we come out of the pandemic, is what do we do next? Do we go back to the broken system we had before and try and patch it up? Or do we go on to something better?

“We have to go down the second path. And that means we have to bring about change politically, change to our country, but we have to harness what’s happened in the last 18 months, we have to harness that togetherness, harness that looking out for one another, and put that at the heart of our politics.

“And we’re going to need it, because I really fear for the next few months. We’ve got food shortages in our supermarkets; we’ve got fuel shortages. . . The result is higher fuel bills, higher food bills. And, for working families, those on low incomes or no incomes or moderate incomes, that is really going to hit. On top of that, the Government is going to hit them with a National Insurance hike on working people.”

Sir Keir also spoke of the Government’s plan to end the weekly £20 uplift in Universal Credit (News, 10 September). “I don’t use the word ‘shamefully’ in politics very often, because I think it’s massively over-used, but taking £1000 of Universal Credit away from the six million families who need it to make ends meet — that is shameful.”

The Labour Conference church service was organised by Christians on the Left. Its theme was “Love thy neighbour — practically, politically, and prayerfully.” The chief executive of Jubilee+, Natalie Williams (Interview, 25 June), preached.

The chair of Christians on the Left, the Labour MP Jonathan Reynolds, said before the service: “People’s responses to the pandemic showed the power of community organising to help each other. In almost every community, churches and Christian organisations were at the forefront, organising foodbanks, deliveries, vaccination drives, and much more.

“Fighting social injustice in our communities is essential. Fighting it through politics, too, for permanent transformation, makes for an awesome combination. But it all starts by loving our neighbour.”

Watch the service here

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