Below is the full text of the speech delivered by Labour leader Keir Starmer at the launch of Labour’s new report on constitutional reform this morning.
Thank you Gordon, and thanks to all of you coming this morning. I can see so many faces here. It’s fantastic to be back here at Leeds University where I spent three happy years. And thank you to the commission members this morning as well. And thank you, Tracy. You are doing an incredible job here in West Yorkshire. Protecting the safety of women and girls, cheaper and better buses, making this region a hub of green industry.
But I know that you could do so much more. I know that businesses here, people here, communities here could do so much more. But you are being held back. Held back by a system that hoards power in Westminster. A system which smugly thinks it knows what skills, transport, planning and job support West Yorkshire needs better than the people who live here. I’ve long been convinced that this broken model has held back our politics and held back our economy. And I’m determined we unbind ourselves and free our potential. Britain is one of the most centralised systems in Europe and the centre has not delivered. But I don’t want it to fall apart, I want us to build something new.
Anyone can see what is happening in the UK today. We have an unbalanced economy. One which makes too little use of the talents of too few people in too few places. And which the Tories have dragged into a vicious cycle of low growth and high taxes. Faced with this narrow path of stagnation, is it any surprise that people up and down the country are crying out for a new approach?
During the Brexit referendum I argued for Remain. But I couldn’t disagree with the basic case that lots of Leave voters made to me. They wanted more control over their lives, more control over their country. They wanted to create opportunities for the next generation – build communities they felt proud of, have public services they could rely on.
And I know that in the Scottish referendum in 2014, many of those who voted Yes did so for similar reasons. The same frustrations at a Westminster system that seems remote. The same yearning for the chance to build a fairer future for themselves and their families.
People know Britain needs change. But they are never going to get it from the Tories, who talk about levelling up but refuse to move power away from Westminster – who once promised a stronger union but cannot work with or for Scotland. And who think the only route to prosperity is to make the rich richer and hope that somehow it trickles down to everyone else.
To build the future our country deserves means change. It means higher standards in public life, a wider spread of power and opportunity and better economic growth that benefits everyone, wherever they are. No more navel gazing or facing inwards – higher, wider, better – that is how Britain must set its sights. I am determined that, with Labour, that’s exactly what we will do.
That’s why I asked Gordon Brown and the commission to carry out a report on the future of the UK. I asked them to put together proposals for the biggest ever transfer of power from Westminster to the British people. So that if Labour wins the next election – Britain will see a change not just in who governs, but how we are governed. The tools to a fairer society and a stronger economy placed directly in the hands of working people. So together we can build an economy not just for the many, but by the many and of the many.
Redistribution is a good thing but it’s not a one-word plan for a fair society or a strong economy. By empowering our towns, cities, regions and nations to work together on local growth plans, Labour will reignite our economy. New powers over skills, transport, planning and culture, all helping to drive growth by developing hundreds of clusters of economic activity.
Labour will rebuild trust. By reforming the centre of government, cleaning up sleaze, nourishing the relationship between central government and devolved authorities, and replacing the unelected House of Lords with a new, smaller, democratically elected second chamber. Not only less expensive, but also representing the regions and nations of the United Kingdom.
And Labour will reunite our country. With new missions based on our shared values and priorities, cooperating to tackle climate change and addressing inequality. Giving Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the regions of England new status and louder, prouder voices in a reformed and modern United Kingdom.
I want to thank Gordon and the commission for their work. They have put forward a compelling vision of how we can break Britain’s economic and political malaise, how we can restore trust to British politics, how we can offer a fairer, greener future to the whole of our United Kingdom.
That vision is underpinned by serious and bold recommendations. These will now be a matter of public consultation so they can be tested, refined and made ready for implementation. We will set out our final plans in our manifesto. And I invite everyone who wants to build that fairer, greener future to get involved. Whether you voted Leave or Remain, Yes or No, live in a city or town, we will make common cause with you. Together, we will forge something bold, something modern, something hopeful. Together, we will build a better future. Thank you.