THE leader of the Labour Party says it is "brilliant" to be in Brighton.

Thousands of party faithful have descended on the city for the party's annual conference – the first with Sir Keir Starmer at the helm.

He joined Hove and Portslade MP Peter Kyle and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves yesterday morning to walk along George Street in Hove.

The Argus:

He spoke with customers outside Gail's bakery, chatted to workers at Little Jasmine Therapies and Bert's Homestore and mingled with shoppers in the street.

Mr Kyle said: "It was a great visit and you can see how appealing Keir is to residents and people in the street.


"George Street is a really great, familiar street setting and lots of people were coming up, engaging with him and laughing about life and about situations.

"At the moment, we have a government that cannot think strategically.

The Argus:

'What Keir and Rachel are offering is strategic, competent government that takes the business of running a country seriously.

"That is overlayed with a promise to invest in those communities that need it the most."

On Saturday, Mr Kyle welcomed the Labour Party to the city in the first speech of the five-day conference.

Addressing hundreds at the Brighton Centre, he urged members not to forget about Hove – praising "the best ice cream in town" at Marrocco's.

The Argus:

Hours earlier, The Argus managed to grab a brief chat with Keir Starmer ahead of the conference which could be "make or break" for his leadership.

He was visiting Shoreham Technical Centre (STC), engineering firm Ricardo’s head office.

He said: "Absolutely fantastic to be back in Brighton, really looking forward to our conference.

"It’s a real chance to come together and map out what the future looks like.

"It’s fantastic to be here at Ricardo’s this morning and look at some of the politics we’re talking about in terms of new technology in action.

"And to see some of the workforce here doing what they’re doing is absolutely uplifting.

"So very, very pleased to be here in Brighton."

The Argus:

Running between Saturday and Wednesday, the conference is a time for the political party to connect with its members, vote on issues, raise funds and showcase its policies.

It is taking place between two venues – the Brighton Centre and Hilton Brighton Metropole – with Sussex Police increasing their presence across the seafront for the duration.

Those attending need to show proof of double vaccination, or show a negative lateral flow test taken over the 24 hours previously.

The Argus:

Sir Keir spoke to supporters after arriving at the conference, accusing the government of “letting people down so badly”.

Flanked by deputy leader Angela Rayner and party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds, he told those gathered: “It is absolutely fantastic to be here in Brighton.

“We’re all really, really looking forward to this, our first chance to speak to the party in person and set out our vision for the future.

“We’re obviously in a crucial time for the country and this government is letting people down so badly, whether it is hammering working people on tax and Universal Credit, whether it is shortages of food and fuel.

“I’ve just been up the road (and seen) three petrol stations, one of them with a massive queue and two of them with no fuel.

“So this is our opportunity to set out the alternatives, set out the vision, set out our ideas, and we’re all really looking forward to this. Thank you so much.”

The conference has already got off to a busy start.

Keir Starmer’s watered-down set of Labour reforms will be put to the conference after he was forced to ditch a major shake-up of the leadership election process.

The leader arrived in Brighton insisting the conference would be a chance to “set out our vision for the future”.

However, behind the scenes, opposition from the unions and Labour’s left to proposals which would have dramatically increased MPs’ influence in the election of a new leader have been a blow to him.

A revised set of plans has now been agreed by the party’s ruling National Executive Committee and will be put to the conference.

Sir Keir has ruled out nationalising the UK’s largest energy firms in a major departure from the leadership of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.

But he did not exclude the possibility of another form of “common ownership” of the Big Six companies if he became Prime Minister, as a crisis of spiralling bills looms.

In an interview during the conference, Sir Keir also did not rule out raising income tax if he formed a government as he set out his principles for fairer taxation.

Menwhile deputy leader Angela Rayner has refused to apologise for describing senior Tories as “scum”.

Ms Rayner’s attack, delivered at a reception for activists at the party conference, has outraged members of the government, with one minister accusing her of “talking crap”.

But Ms Rayner said she would only apologise if Boris Johnson said sorry for past comments he made “that are homophobic, that are racist, that are misogynistic”.

GMB general secretary Gary Smith is proposing a less radical Green New Deal motion, which backs nuclear and “green gas”.

He said: “Energy is complex and we are going to need gas for years to come as we chart our way to the hydrogen future. We need gas for heating and power but we need it for the NHS and for our food supply too."

The passion inside the Brighton Centre conference was echoed outside.

Piers Corbyn, brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, led an anti-vaccination demonstration.

Protesters shouted anti-lockdown, vaccination and BBC messages towards the entrance to the conference in King's Road while members walked inside.

Police stepped in to intervene after tempers frayed between pro-European demonstrators and anti-vaccination protesters.