Keir Starmer is set to deliver a speech on Thursday laying out both his diagnosis of what has gone wrong with the UK’s economy over the last decade and his ideas for the future, LabourList understands. The Labour leader will speak from Southside in a lengthy address “more like a Labour conference speech” than his recent interventions, as one member of his team put it. This will be the most wide-ranging so far in terms of presenting a vision, but it is also the most focused as it concentrates on the economy alone. It will be the first time that Starmer as leader has detailed how he sees the economy, how he thinks it has been failed by successive Tory government and how it should be run.
The opposition leader will begin with a critique of the last ten years of Conservative rule, arguing that this period has weakened the foundation of the country and left us exposed to the ravages of Covid. This touches on a theme being consistently pushed by Anneliese Dodds: that what has been missing is resilience, which requires investment in public services and longer-term thinking on the economy. The argument is that the UK has one of the worst coronavirus death tolls and recessions not just because of the government’s handling of the health crisis since March but because of its punishing approach over many years. Starmer is set to make the case that the economic model followed by the Tories has allowed Covid to get into the cracks of our society and to exacerbate already existing inequalities and crises such as social care.
Starmer will then open ‘a new chapter for Britain’, which represents “a new chapter for Labour, too” as he properly proceeds to the next stage of his leadership plan – from providing ‘constructive opposition’ and scrutinising the government’s response, to now offering a more comprehensive vision. Those close to the leadership say this is not a response to recent criticisms but in fact always part of Starmer’s plan, which LabourList has reported on before. The Labour leader will talk about a future built on security, opportunity and prosperity, outlining how the UK deserves a more active state and people deserve security at work. Labour needs to be a much more pro-business party, he will say, as there is no recovery without thriving businesses: his party will have high expectations of business, and business can have high expectations of Labour.
The speech will seek to draw dividing lines ahead of Rishi Sunak’s Budget in March and into the future, a source close to the leader has explained to LabourList. Those advising Starmer recognise that while austerity measures have not disappeared, and will not go away easily despite large-scale Covid support, the Boris Johnson does not plan to promote an austerity narrative as we have seen in previous years. The Labour leader will address this directly tomorrow, saying the Tories talk a good game but want the country to go backwards. Far from adopting the ‘Build Back Better’ slogan, Labour is rejecting it and arguing that the desire to build back is precisely the problem with Sunak’s plans: as biggest party affiliate UNISON has said, there must be no going back to normal. For those who have been willing the opposition leader to talk more about what he stands for and to announce more striking policies, there will be much to chew over.