Keir Starmer has declared that inequality is not only “morally unjust” but also “economically stupid” while he set out his five priorities for the economy to build a “brighter, better future” as the country recovers from the pandemic.
Also discussing his party’s prospects in the elections taking place across the UK on Thursday, the opposition leader told listeners on the BBC Today programme this morning that he would take “full responsibility” for the result.
He warned that the UK is at a “fork in the road” with the Covid health crisis, and said that the public has to decide whether the country goes “forward to a different and better future” or tries to “patch up what we had before”.
He explained that the Labour is focused on creating “jobs for the future”, highlighting the party’s young persons guarantee, and said that the inequality “baked in” to the economy before the pandemic had left the country weakened.
“First on the economy, the short-termism has bedevilled our economy for years and years. So we’ve got low wages, low standards, low investment, low skills, low productivity. That has got to be changed to a long-term model,” he said.
“The second head is public services. We have got to move to a model of preventative public services, cross-cutting public services. I feel very strongly about this. You will not deal with criminal justice if you don’t deal with education, mental health, schools etc and housing at the same time.
“We need thirdly a much stronger skills and education agenda so that there’s a world-class education for every child wherever they live and wherever they are from. And skills that equip them for life.
“We need, fourthly, to make sure that decisions are much closer to people. To really have the courage to devolve,” he told listeners this morning.
“Fifthly, we need to change the culture. Over the last ten years, in America, across the world and here in the UK, we have spent far too much time identifying what divides us, what the differences are,” the Labour leader said.
“Setting people against each other rather than valuing what actually brings us together and empathy. That old Labour Party value that we’ve seen so brightly in the pandemic and we need to capture and make central as we move forward.”
Voters will head to the ballot box across the UK on Thursday, including in a parliamentary by-election in Hartlepool. Polling published by Survation this morning showed that the Conservatives are on course to win the seat with a 17-point lead.
Starmer described the emphasis that the party has placed on the seat, which it won in 2019 as the anti-Labour vote split between the Tories and the Brexit Party. But he added that Labour has a mountain to climb after the 2019 defeat.
“I hope we won’t lose Hartlepool,” the Labour leader said today. “We’re fighting for every vote there and I know that every vote has to be earned and that’s why I’ve been in Hartlepool three times in the campaign and we’ve got teams on the ground.
“My job as the Labour leader was to rebuild the Labour Party out of that devastating loss in 2019 and put us in the position to win the next general election. I said on the day that I was elected that was a mountain to climb.”
“But I don’t think anybody realistically thought that it was possible to turn the Labour Party around from the worst general election defeat since 1935 to a position to win the next general election within the period of one year.”
Starmer rejected the claim that support for the party in the seat is low because Labour selected a candidate in the Leave-voting constituency “strongly associated” with Remain, suggesting instead that the most prevalent issue in the seat is jobs.
“The issue that comes up over and over again is job. There’s a nuclear power plant there that’s coming to the end of its natural life and there’s no plan yet for the future,” he told listeners this morning.
“What’s needed more than anything is a powerful voice for Hartlepool and that’s what Dr Paul Williams, our Labour candidate, will be. That matters above all else.”
Lisa Nandy said on Sunday that she could “feel the mood shifting” ahead of the police and crime commissioner, council, mayoral, Senedd and Scottish parliament elections on Thursday, but added that the party is “not expecting miracles”.
“People have realised that Labour is under new management, they are angry with a Tory government that believes the rules aren’t for them. But these were always going to be difficult elections for us,” the Shadow Foreign Secretary said.
The Survation poll this morning, which surveyed members of the public between April 23rd and 29th, reported that 50% of voters in the seat will back the Conservatives in the vote later this week, with 33% supporting Labour.
Research on the wider Westminster voting intention by Redfield & Wilton published on Monday showed the Tories ahead of Labour by two points on 40%, representing a significant decline on their ten-point lead reported by the organisation last week.