Demonstrators interrupt U.K. Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer

Demonstrators interrupt U.K. Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer as he speaks at Mid Kent College in Gillingham, U.K. on July 6, 2023.

(Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)

Campaigners Crash Labour Leader Starmer's Speech, Demanding End to 'U-Turns' on Green New Deal

Keir Starmer then made his "quickest U-turn ever," backing out of talking directly with the protesters about the climate emergency.

Climate campaigners on Thursday called on British Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer to stop "making U-turns" on financing a Green New Deal and commit to bold climate action—only to have Starmer refuse to speak with the protesters after telling them he would after the event.

Two campaigners with Green New Deal Rising were among the students who were assembled behind Starmer at Mid Kent College, where he was speaking about education reform, including plans to add oracy to school curricula to help students "speak well and express" themselves.

The Labor Party leader was not prepared, however, for two of the young people to speak out about the Labour Party's recent announcement that instead of funding a $35 billion-per-year investment in a Green New Deal as soon as the party takes over the government—which could happen after the next general election in 2025—the plan will have to be phased in gradually.

"Economic stability, financial stability, always has to come first," said Rachel Reeves, a member of Parliament and the shadow chancellor of the exchequer, last month as she backtracked on the party's previous promise.

Green New Deal Rising has called for the investment to fund green jobs, a National Nature Service, and other programs, and has demanded "wealth taxes for the 1% [and] permanent and progressive windfall taxes for polluters."

The campaigners who interrupted Starmer on Thursday displayed a sign reading, "No more U-turns! Green New Deal!" and told the Labour leader that young people in the U.K. want the party reinstate its original pledge.

Starmer attempted to brush off the protest, noting that he vowed last month to decarbonize the country's electricity sector by 2030.

"We've done that one," he told the campaigners.

When asked which side of the fight for climate action the Labour Party is on, Starmer echoed Reeves' earlier comments, saying it's on "the side of economic growth."

Contrary to Starmer's suggestion that continuing to rely on planet-heating fossil fuel extraction for energy is an economic growth strategy, jobs in the renewable energy sector grew at four times the rate of the overall employment market in the U.K. in 2022. Forty percent of the energy generated in the U.K. last year came from renewable sources, compared to 5% in 2021.

Starmer asked the Green New Deal Rising members to "just let me get on with this" and said he would speak with them about the Green New Deal after his address—but he didn't follow through on the promise, the campaigners later said.

"Is this Keir Starmer's quickest U-turn ever?" asked one of the protesters. "We'd love to meet with Keir Starmer and Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves... and if they give us the time and place, we'll be there."

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