Protest showers Keir Starmer in glitter as he sets out prime ministerial vision

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Liverpool: British opposition leader Keir Starmer has shrugged off an on-stage glitter attack at the Labour Party conference to cement his position as prime minister-in-waiting.

The Labour leader, taking to the stage in Liverpool for what could be his party’s last conference before an election that could come as early as May, was showered with glitter by a fringe protester demanding a greater role for civilians in politics.

Keir Starmer is showered in glitter at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool.Credit: PA

Before he even opened his address to conference, a man – later identified by the Press Association as Yaz Ashmawi – ran on stage and dunked glitter over Starmer’s head.

“We demand a people’s house, we are in crisis – politics needs an update. We are in crisis,” the protester yelled as he held Starmer’s hand, wrapping his other arm around the Labour leader’s shoulder.

He was hauled off-stage by three officers, taken to a police station for questioning and arrested on suspicion of assault, breach of the peace and causing public nuisance.

A new organisation called People Demand Democracy said Ashmawi was one of their members. It is the third time a leader’s party conference speech has been disrupted by protesters in recent years.

In 2017, then-prime minister Theresa May was interrupted by a comedian who handed her a mock notice terminating her employment. Last year, Greenpeace heckled Liz Truss during her speech in Birmingham while she was prime minister.

Starmer shrugged off the incident on Tuesday, removed his jacket and delivered the rest of his speech wearing a shirt and tie. He said the episode showed how Labour had changed as a party since he took over from Jeremy Corbyn, a hard-left leader who energised his activist base but turned off the voting public.

“Protest or power – that’s why we’ve changed,” Starmer said.

Labour has outpolled the Conservatives and if the public surveys prove correct, the opposition could be on track to overturn the landslide Boris Johnson won over Corbyn.

Corbyn once shared a stage with Hamas’ leadership and was repeatedly rocked by anti-semitism scandals. Corbyn, who was later kicked out of the parliamentary party, was in Liverpool but was not accredited to attend official events.

Starmer said he would always put the country first and the party second.

“Conference, I am shocked and appalled by events in Israel,” he said.

“I utterly condemn the senseless murder of men, women and children – including British citizens – in cold blood by the terrorists of Hamas.

“This party believes in the two-state solution – a Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel. But this action by Hamas does nothing for Palestinians. And Israel must always have the right to defend her people.”

Liz McShane, of the Labour Party’s Irish Society, canvassing during the 2019 election.Credit: Latika Bourke

Liz McShane, who represents Labour on Folkestone and Hythe District Council, said Starmer’s speech couldn’t have gone better – with or without the protester.

“I think the protester did Keir Starmer a big favour,” McShane said after the speech.

“It showed how self-assured and confident he is and why being in power matters.”

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