Keir Starmer will launch his party’s national election campaign on Thursday with the message that “a vote for Labour is a vote to support our nurses, to rebuild social care and to reward our key workers”.
The Labour leader’s speech comes ahead of a bumper set of contests in May, covering 184 councils, 13 directly-elected mayors, 40 police and crime commissioners, the Welsh and Scottish parliaments.
Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner will be joined at the launch by new Scottish leader Anas Sarwar, mayoral candidates Tracy Brabin and London’s Sadiq Khan, and First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford.
“Since Angela and I were elected 11 months ago, Labour’s changed. We’re reconnecting with the British people in every region and nation of the United Kingdom and we’re working hard to rebuild trust.
“There’s a long way to go but I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved. Whether that’s rooting out the antisemitism that had poisoned this party or rebuilding our relationship with British business.
“This is a different Labour Party, under new leadership and we’re making a different offer to the British people,” Starmer will say at the event being streamed online from 10.30 on Thursday morning.
Starmer will say that the choice is between “a Labour Party that will build a stronger, more secure and prosperous recovery” or a Tory Party that is cutting nurses’ pay, cutting NHS spending and raising taxes.
“Under my leadership, and with our great local candidates across the country, Labour offers a very different route to recovery. Labour’s changing. Our priorities are your priorities: securing the economy, protecting the NHS, rebuilding Britain.”
The Labour leader is set to remind people that his mother and sister were nurses and his wife works for the NHS, adding: “I know that now, more than ever, is the time to give our key workers a proper pay rise.”
Putting the NHS at the centre of Labour’s campaign, he will say: “Every vote in this election is a chance to show the Conservatives that the British people value our NHS and our key workers so much more than this government does.”
Starmer will criticise the Tories for “weakening the foundations of our country and only offering the country more of the same” and the SNP for being “too busy fighting among themselves to fight for the Scottish people”.
Outlining his critique of the Conservative Party’s record in government, he is expected to say: “These elections are about how Britain recovers. How our communities and public services are run and how we reward our frontline workers.
“There’s a simple choice ahead of us: to change; or to go back to more of the same. One thing we know about the Conservatives: don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do.
“A pay cut for our nurses – and tax rises for millions of families. Nothing for social care. No plan to cut NHS waiting lists. And no idea how to tackle the single biggest threat Britain faces: the climate emergency.
“Their masks are slipping and we’re starting to see the real face of this Conservative Party. Out of touch and out of ideas. A party that gives a 40% pay rise to Dominic Cummings, but a pay cut for our nurses.
“A party that gives billions to Serco, but nothing for our NHS. A party that spent a decade weakening the foundations of our economy – and now has no answer for the future. Only more of the same.”
Following the election of Sarwar as leader of the Scottish Labour Party last month, Starmer will declare: “A vote for Labour is also a vote to unite our country so that we can face the future together.
“Under our brilliant new leader – Anas Sarwar – Labour will focus on what unites Scotland. After everything we’ve been through in the last year, the last thing we need now is more division.
“Yet, in Scotland, the SNP have shown they’re too busy fighting among themselves to fight for the Scottish people. Their 13 years in power has seen child poverty rise and educational standards fall.
“Scotland now has the lowest life expectancy in Western Europe and the highest number of drug deaths. It’s a record of shame and yet the SNP’s only priority is another divisive referendum.”
Starmer and Sarwar have argued that a fresh independence vote should not be held in the wake of Covid. A Labour MSP candidate was stood down this week after suggesting that indyref2 could be held in the next parliamentary term.
On Wales, where Labour is in power, Starmer will say “it’s been Mark Drakeford’s Labour government that’s taken the tough decisions that were needed in the last year and now has a plan to take Wales forward”.
“Mark’s shown the leadership that’s been sorely lacking in Westminster – and the difference that Labour in government can make.This election is the chance now to give Welsh Labour the tools to finish the job and to deliver a recovery that puts jobs and the NHS first.”
The latest YouGov polling shows the Conservatives nationally on 45% and Labour on 32%, with the Tories widening their lead to 13 points and Boris Johnson also widening his lead on the ‘best Prime Minister’ question.
Although Starmer has had the best personal approval ratings of any Labour leader since Tony Blair, 36% UK adults in the new poll said Johnson would make a better head of government, while 28% favoured Starmer.
Labour insiders have privately said the party does not expect to make gains in May. Asked about the falling ratings this week, the UK Labour leader put it down to a “vaccine bounce” benefiting the Tories.
“You can feel it, you go into the vaccine centre with anxiety written over your face and then you see people coming out with a smile. It’s just an incredible feeling and then that leads to a bounce, I think, in the polls.”
Starmer chose to focus on the government recommendation of a 1% pay rise for NHS staff at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, saying the decision to impose a real-terms pay cut shows “the mask has slipped”.