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‘Kent is turning red’ says Sir Keir Starmer in Dover speech

Featured image from UK Parliament official portrait. View full license here

Leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, arrived in Dover this morning and has just delivered a speech where he sets out a plan to tackle the small boat crossings.

The speech comes shortly after MP for Dover, Natalie Elphicke defected to Labour from The Conservative Party.

In the speech delivered by the Labour leader, he pledged to bring in a new era of governance if elected prime minister.

He said: “I will turn the page on Westminster’s talk tough, do nothing culture, not just on small boats, not just on migration, on everything.”

Addressing the pressing issue of small boat crossings, Sir Keir emphasised the need to tackle the UK’s asylum backlog and rebuild the country’s fractured asylum system.

He said “clearing the UK’s asylum backlog is the only path to real deterrence”, while vowing that a Labour government would “rebuild our broken asylum system”.

In his speech, Sir Keir condemned people smugglers, referring to them as terrorists and emphasised the need to halt their operations on UK shores.

“These shores will become hostile territory for you. We will find you, we will stop you, we will protect your victims.” – Sir Keir Starmer

He went on to criticise the current state of the UK’s border system, Sir Keir described it as ‘a sieve’, accusing the Tories of being incompetent.

He promised to replace ineffective policies, such as the controversial Rwanda plan, with more effective measures to tackle illegal migration.

“The list [of ideas] is endless,” Sir Keir remarked.

“Yet here we are, over 8,000 people have made the perilous journey across the Channel in small boats this year.”

Highlighting the need to combat people smuggling and secure the nation’s borders, Sir Keir underscored the urgency of the issue, stating, “our borders must be secured”.

 “Vile trade that preys on the desperation and the hope it finds in its victims.” – Sir Keir Starmer

Furthermore, Sir Keir referenced the shifting landscape in Kent, in reference to Natalie Elphicke defecting to Labour. “Kent is turning red”, he remarked, signalling a political shift based on recent local election results.

Addressing concerns regarding the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and its impact on tackling the small boat crossings crisis, Sir Keir emphasised that the ECHR was not the obstacle hindering the UK’s response.

“I think it is a mistake to think that it is the international instruments such as the European Convention on Human Rights that are the problem. I don’t.”

Sir Keir attributed the challenge to the government’s failure to process asylum claims, stating: “By the end of this year there will be 100,000 people who have arrived whose claims can’t be processed.”

Journalists attending the speech had the chance to put questions forward to Sir Keir.

In response to questions about the controversial Rwanda scheme, Sir Keir declared that a Labour government would immediately abandon the policy.

He said: “We will cancel the scheme. We don’t think the policy is going to work and we think it costs a fortune.”

He went on to describe the Rwanda plan as a “gimmick.”

Sir Keir then took questions relating to Natalie Elphicke’s recent defection.

He stated: “I want Labour to be a place where reasonably minded people, whichever way they voted in the past, feel that they can join with our project to change the country for the better.”

Regarding the prospect of Nigel Farage joining Labour, Sir Keir quipped, “a list of names doesn’t help anyone but Nigel Farage won’t want to join the Labour Party”.

Sir Keir reaffirmed his stance on the Rwanda scheme.

He stated: “We will scrap the Rwanda scheme… and that means ending the scheme absolutely, flights and all.”