In a speech designed to present himself as a prime minister-in-waiting, the Labour leader promised a new, publicly-owned clean company that would harness sun, wind and wave power to deliver energy independence for the UK.
Making a landmark speech at Labour conference in Liverpool on Tuesday, Sir Keir vowed to build a Britain where people were “thriving”, not just “surviving”.
His declaration came on a day when the Bank of England signalled it was ready to ramp up interest rates to shore up the struggling pound, with Sir Keir stressing the public must never forgive the Tories for "crashing" the economy.
Sir Keir also used his speech to announce:
- Plans to “control immigration” using a points-based system;
- A target of 70 per cent of home ownership;
- A promise to “make Brexit work”, despite having voted Remain in the 2016 referendum;
- There would be “no deal under any circumstances” with Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP.
The Labour leader said: “Labour’s Green Prosperity Plan is a plan that will turn the UK into a green growth superpower. And driving the plan forward is a goal that will put us ahead of any major economy in the world – 100 per cent clean power by 2030.
“Labour will make sure that the public money we spend building-up British industry, spurs on private investment, stimulates growth … and the British people enjoy the returns.
“Labour won’t make the mistake the Tories made with North Sea oil and gas back in the 1980s, where they frittered away the wealth from our national resources.
“Just look at what’s happening at the moment. The largest onshore wind farm in Wales. Who owns it? Sweden.
"Energy bills in Swansea are paying for schools and hospitals in Stockholm. The Chinese Communist Party has a stake in our nuclear industry. And five million people in Britain pay their bills to an energy company owned by France.
“Labour will set up Great British Energy within the first year of a Labour Government, a new company that takes advantage of the opportunities in clean British power, and because it’s right for jobs, because it’s right for growth, because it’s right for energy independence.
“The road to net-zero is no longer one of stern, austere self-denial. It’s at the heart of modern, 21st-century aspiration. Technology has turned everything on its head. Green and growth don’t just go together – they’re inseparable. The future wealth of this country is in our air, in our seas and in our skies. Britain should harness that wealth and share it with all.”
The role of GB Energy would be to provide additional capacity, alongside the rapidly expanding private sector, to establish the UK as a clean energy superpower and guarantee long-term energy security.
Many European, Asian, and American countries have their own public generating companies, like EDF in France and Vattenfall in Sweden, which partner with the private sector to increase capacity and build clean energy at scale.
Sir Keir’s pledge came along with plans for clean power by 2030, with the Labour leader claiming it would save £93 billion for UK households over the rest of this decade.
The SNP previously tried and failed to launch a state-run energy firm, with Ms Sturgeon having originally promised one in October 2017.
The First Minister claimed in August that households would still be facing an energy crisis even if the Scottish Government had fulfilled the election promise.
The announcement by Sir Keir came less than 24 hours after a YouGov poll showed his party had opened up a 17-point lead over the Tories.
He told a rapturous conference Labour would beat the Tories because the party had “fairness” and “economic reason” on its side.
Sir Keir explained: “If they want to fight us on redistribution, if they want to fight us on workers’ rights, if they want to tell us working people don’t come first, we’ll take them on – and we will win.
“And we will win not just because we have fairness on our side, but because we have economic reason on our side too. Trickle-down economics doesn’t work. Britain won’t be better off just because we make the rich richer.”
He also suggested Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng had been “caught bang to rights” on the Tories’ economic record.
“We will fight the Tories on economic growth,” Sir Keir said. “Their record is appalling – the worst decade of growth in two centuries. Or, as the Chancellor puts it, ‘a vicious cycle of stagnation’.
“Now, I have to say, as a former prosecutor, it always warms my heart when somebody caught bang to rights pleads guilty at the first opportunity.”
Sir Keir also repeated his vow Labour would not make a deal with the SNP “under any circumstances”.
He said: “Conference, the challenges we face – the cost-of-living crisis, climate change, standing up to [Vladimir] Putin – are common across our four nations.
“We saw off the threat of fascism and deadly disease, together. We built the NHS and the welfare state, together. But I don’t believe in our Union just because of our history. I believe in it because of our future.”
He added: “Scotland needs a Labour Government that can deliver change. But it also needs the power and resources to shape its own future, whoever’s in power in Westminster. And the SNP are not interested in this.
“For them, Scotland’s success in the UK is met with gritted teeth, seen as a roadblock to independence, and so, they stand in the way. We can’t work with them, we won’t work with them – no deal under any circumstances.”
Sir Keir was scathing about the state of the nation after 12 years of Conservative rule.
The Conservatives had left a “Britain all at sea, where a cloud of anxiety hangs over working people”, he said.
“Lives are at risk this winter”, the Labour leader said, with the NHS “face down on the floor”, according to one medic he spoke to.
He claimed parents feared their children would not have the opportunity for a better life than them.
Sir Keir concluded by claiming Labour were the “party of the centre-ground” and the Tories would “stop at nothing” in a bid for a fifth term.
He told his members: “Conference, on climate change, growth, aspiration, levelling-up, Brexit, economic responsibility we are the party of the centre-ground.
“Once again, the political wing of the British people – and we can achieve great things.
“Let’s not kid ourselves: the next two years will be tough. The Tories want a fifth term and they will stop at nothing to achieve it.
“And because of their record, because of the state of Britain, they are getting desperate. With so little that’s good to defend, they will lash out.
“We need to be prepared, disciplined, focused, spend each day working to earn the trust of the British people, meet their attacks with hope, provide the leadership this country so desperately needs.
“Because as in 1956, 1964, 1997, this is a Labour moment.”
The SNP claimed the speech showed independence was the only route to improve Scotland.
The party’s Westminster deputy leader Kirsten Oswald said: "Keir Starmer's remarks not only failed to set out anything new or of substance to Scotland, they also reaffirmed yet again that only with independence will we be able to escape damaging Westminster control and repeated Tory governments for good.
"You don’t beat the Tories by turning into them, but that’s exactly what the Labour Party is doing under Starmer's leadership by adopting the Tories' extreme Brexit, denying the people of Scotland's democratic right to choose their own future, and prioritising grubby council coalitions with the Tories across Scotland.”
Gary Smith, GMB general secretary, said: "Labour looks every bit a Government in waiting.
“Keir Starmer provided a message of hope and unity for the country, while the Conservatives are all about fear and division.
“The pledge for a Labour Government, business and unions to work together in tackling the cost of living and fixing our long-term problems is a vision we can all get behind.”