Keir Starmer has said Labour has “put to one side” the 2019 general election manifesto and declared that the party would be “starting from scratch”.
Speaking at a New Statesman ‘Politics Live’ event today, the Labour leader told those watching that “what we’ve done with the last manifesto is put it to one side – we’re starting from scratch, the slate is wiped clean”.
Asked whether he supports abolishing tuition fees, he said: “What we do have to recognise is that having come through the pandemic, we need to look at everything in the round, and make choices about where we want to put our money.”
Starmer was elected as Labour leader on a platform comprised of ten pledges, one of which stated that he supports “the abolition of tuition fees”.
The Labour leader added today that the current arrangements “don’t really work” for students or universities and that therefore his party would be “going to have to look at that” but he did not make any specific commitment on policy or approach.
The Labour leader described the 2017 manifesto as “our foundational document” during his leadership bid in 2020 and praised its “radicalism”. He also told members: “We have to hang on to that as we go forward.”
But Starmer revealed in May last year that Labour’s policy review would not use the 2017 or 2019 manifestos as its starting point. He was urged by Labour MPs at the time not to abandon his ten pledges or the past manifestos.
Starmer told a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party last year that “we need to change Labour to change the country” and Labour must face outwards to voters but argued that this does not mean dropping Labour’s radicalism.
Reacting to the comments today, a spokesperson for Momentum said “the status quo is failing millions of people” and accused the party leadership of “avoiding facing these challenges in favour of a reheated and deeply unpopular Blairism”.
They added: “Whether it’s abandoning transport workers fighting for their livelihoods, or offering a windfall tax less ambitious than that of the Tories, Starmer’s tepid, unprincipled approach will neither tackle today’s challenges, nor invigorate a winning electoral coalition.”
The Labour leader was criticised last week after instructing Labour frontbenchers stay away from picket lines amid the RMT rail strikes. Unite general secretary accused Starmer of “hiding” and called on him to “decide whose side you are on”.