Sir Keir Starmer will need honest answers to convince voters to trust him

The location for Sir Keir Starmer's first big campaign speech was a parish hall in Lancing, West Sussex.

There was Union Jack bunting, Formica tables and endless cups of tea. Quintessentially English, familiar, and relatable.

This is the Starmer his team wanted voters to see as they took the Labour leader back to his roots in the South East of England

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It was, his aides tell me, a deliberately personal speech with no new policy, designed to try to convey who Starmer is and what drives him.

Because it's fair to say that how the Labour leader might appear to who he actually is, are quite different things.

You might remember how Boris Johnson used to goad him as a "lefty Islington London lawyer" and use his title, Sir Keir, to paint him as elite and out of touch.

Part of this election campaign is about trying to define him in the minds of voters.

His is the story of a small-town boy, growing up on the Sussex-Kent border, from a working-class background in which the annual family holiday was a trip to the Lake District.

His father was a toolmaker and his mum a nurse, with a debilitating illness that shaped all their lives.

But that isn't, say his team, very well known beyond the bubble of Westminster.

While I have heard Starmer talk about his tool-making late dad Rodney Starmer countless times, only 11% of the public knows that was what he did for a living, points out one of his team.

"We know the Tories' strategy in a large part is going after Keir Starmer personally and we want to ensure voters can see who he is, where he comes from and he intends to fight for them," they said.

"This was a deliberately personal speech that answers the questions of who he is and what motivates him, so it is right to kick off the first full week saying, 'this is our candidate for prime minister' when we know people are only starting to tune into the campaign."

Starmer says what motivates him is a sense of injustice and an anger within him that politics is no longer in the service of people.

If you want to boil his pitch down to one sentence it is this: "I changed the Labour Party to put it back into the service of British people and now I want to put Britain back into the service of working people."

The foundation of that, he says, is economic security, border security and national security.

But there is, as the leader acknowledged in this speech, a gap between his Labour and voters.

"I know there are countless people who haven't decide how to vote in this election," he noted in his speech. "Do I trust Labour with my money, our borders, our security? My answer is yes, you can."

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But the question of trust is one that haunts Starmer - the trust gap between him and voters.

When I asked him in a short interview to acknowledge that, he ran through his record as head of the Crown Prosecution Service as evidence that he delivers on promises.

But in politics, he has U-turned many times, most notably on the pledges he made when he was trying to become Labour leader.

When I put it to him that he has a trust issue because of promises broken, he told me he "totally disagreed" with that.

"I think it's more important to stand in front of the electorate and say, 'I'm sorry, I can't now afford what I said before because of the damage being done to the economy.'," he said.

"What I am saying to the electorate is this, 'I'm going to tell you in advance of the election what I don't think we can afford to do, I'm not going to tell you you can have everything and then break a promise'... I think that is basic honesty with the electorate."

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There are still questions about how honest Starmer is really being. While he will not make big commitments on public services beyond his six "first steps" towards delivering his missions for government by the end of the parliament - on economic growth, NHS waiting lists, teachers in schools, dealing with illegal boat crossings, safer streets and all electricity from renewables by 2030 - he has over the weekend ruled out any national insurance and income tax rises in the next parliament.

It all, given what independent forecasters such as the IMF are saying about the state of public finances, points to spending cuts in the next parliament - but this is something Labour will not be drawn on, saying only it will swiftly conduct a spending review should it win the election.

But as we get beyond the framing - Labour's "change" message versus the Conservatives' "choice" one - and into the nuts and bolts of what these two leaders will do, Starmer is going to face more questions on his tax policies and spending plans.

And he will need honest answers if he really wants to convince the public he is a politician worthy of their trust.