Preston leader welcomes Sir Keir TUC speech - but pushes Labour Party to go "a little further"

The Labour leader of Preston City Council says he believes Sir Keir Starmer has begun to set out the national party‘s stall for a “transformative” Labour government during his speech to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference.

Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 9:51 pm
Updated Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 10:06 pm

Matthew Brown welcomed the prominence given to Jeremy Corbyn-era policies that formed part of the Labour manifesto at the 2019 general election – including a ban on zero hours contracts and a £10-per-hour minimum wage.

However, the city leader – a self-proclaimed socialist – urged his party to go “a little further” in its attempts to create a “more democratic economy”.

“I think there is a general consensus now within the Labour movement that business-as-usual is not going to cut it – especially after the pandemic. What Keir did [in his speech] was really highlight the effect that Covid has had on hardworking people.

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Preston City Council leader Matthew Brown

“I know as a council leader it was those lower paid workers – often from minority communities – who were disproportionately affected and a lot of it was linked to the inequalities we have in society.

“I think a wealth tax is something we should consider in terms of how we fund social care – I don’t think it’s fair that working people have to face the brunt of it,” Cllr Brown said of plans unveiled by the government last week to increase the rate of national insurance for the purpose.

Sir Keir told union members that he would strengthen workers’ rights from “day one” in their jobs and end the practice of firing people only to rehire them on different terms.

Cllr Brown – whose promotion of the so-called ‘Preston Model’ of generating and retaining wealth locally attracted the attention of the national Labour leadership under Corbyn – said it was policies, not personalities, that would persuade people to support Labour at the next election.

“People need to be inspired enough with a message that’s strong enough and is going to bring change. There is lots of stuff I really welcome in Keir’s speech today – and I think when he was talking about his own background and how working people have been treated pretty badly during the pandemic, that really struck a chord.

“I just think we need to go a little bit further. So, for instance, what [shadow business, energy and industrial strategy secretary] Ed Miliband has said around public ownership of utilities and the green new deal – I think that needs to be said a little louder,” Cllr Brown added.