Starmer begins three-day tour to show Labour on front foot as Tories distracted

Sienna Rodgers
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Happy Valentine’s Day, LabourList readers. This marks the beginning of HeartUnions week, when the labour movement celebrates its successes and encourages everyone to join a trade union. Justin Madders, shadow minister for employment rights and protections, has kicked us off with a piece on Labour’s new deal for working people. He has linked this offering from last year’s conference – which includes day-one rights, ending fire and rehire, and bringing in fair pay agreements – to Keir Starmer’s three principles of security, prosperity and respect. “Working people deserve security at work, fair pay that supports a good quality of life, and respect and dignity in the workplace,” the frontbencher writes.

Labour’s relationship with unions isn’t as smooth as it could be at the moment. Last week, there was a battle with Unite, when general secretary Sharon Graham warned she could withdraw funding over a dispute with Coventry Council. A strongly worded Labour spokesperson response was issued and Keir Starmer told the BBC his party would not be “influenced by threats”. Another Labour-run council was then criticised by another affiliated union: the GMB called for an independent audit of the culture and procedures in Newham, as 63 non-disclosure agreements there have cost £2.8m over three and a half years. (The GMB comment came soon after Rokhsana Fiaz was reselected as the Newham mayoral candidate by Labour’s ruling body.) Now another small left-wing union, train drivers’ ASLEF, could follow in the footsteps of the Bakers’ union by disaffiliating from Labour. Stay tuned as LabourList will have more on that story today.

Keir Starmer has just started a three-day tour, which begins in Sunderland, before moving on to Burnley and then Erdington (where there will be a by-election on March 3rd, with Paulette Hamilton hoping to replace Jack Dromey as the MP). This tour is a show of Labour being on the front foot, promoting domestic policies, while the government is distracted by its various self-inflicted problems. The cost of youth violence – £11bn since 2010 – is the Labour leader’s focus today. He will pledge to “reverse the shocking lack of security being felt by young people and communities up and down the country as a direct result of complacent inaction by this Tory government”.

Steve Reed, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, has offered insight into how he will approach his new brief in a Mirror interview. He suggests that Labour under the last leadership “cared more about the criminals than about their victims”, but those days are “well and truly over”. He repeats the Blairite slogan ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ and describes the axing of Tony Blair’s ASBOs as a “tragedy”. Reed calls on ministers to extend ‘Nightingale courts’ and highlights a scheme that ran in Brixton when he was Lambeth Council leader, under which people convicted of buying illegal drugs were named and shamed. All in all, he is clear: “The 2019 manifesto is no longer the Labour Party’s policy platform.”

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