Full NPF speech: Starmer on ULEZ, Bevan, child poverty and tough choices

Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer via Shutterstock
Keir Starmer via Shutterstock

Thank you colleagues. Thank you Anneliese for those words and thank you for everything you do for our party. And thanks to everyone in this room for being here. It’s really great to see so many friends and colleagues in this room. You are the backbone of our party.

Your dedication, your tirelessness, your commitment to our cause of serving working people, that never ceases to amaze me.

I draw on it every day. So, before we start our work this weekend, I just want to say: thank you to each and every one of you for what you’ve done.

It’s great to be here in Nottingham as well.

A city that shows the difference Labour can make in power. A city with a sense of mission, that wants to be the UK’s first carbon neutral city, and yes, a city with the football team that ended Arsenal’s title hopes back in May. I know, you’re all as sad as me about that one.

We have every reason to be confident – Selby shows that

But friends, we start our work today in very good spirits. A record win – that’s what we’ve done in Selby and Ainsty with Keir Mather, a record win.

I went there yesterday with Angela Rayner – we could feel it was history in the making.

A huge effort from our activists – as it was in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, not least from our brilliant candidate Danny Beales.

So I want to thank everyone who campaigned for Labour in the past few weeks. But if anyone needed reminding that there is still a long way to go – Uxbridge is the reminder.

We have every reason to be confident – Selby shows that.

We’ve changed the party, opened our ears to the concerns of working people, shown we understand the value of service. Country first, party second.

We are doing something very wrong if policies…end up on each and every Tory leaflet

But that result in Uxbridge demonstrates there is never any reason to be complacent and never a reason to rest on our laurels. It is a reminder, as Danny said, that in an election, policy matters.

And we are doing something very wrong if policies put forward by the Labour Party end up on each and every Tory leaflet. We’ve got to face up to that and learn the lessons.

Now this party does not have a good record of winning from opposition – you all know that.

And the job, our job, everyone who is here, is changing the Labour party and winning power in a single-term from where we started, that’s an historic task.

Which means it requires historic levels of effort, discipline and focus.

We’ve got to ask ourselves seriously – are our priorities the priorities of working people or are they just baggage that shows them we don’t see the country through their eyes.

We can’t take anything for granted. So let’s stay disciplined, meet the Tory attacks with hope, show we can be trusted, and that we measure up to the scale of the challenge.

Not just in analysis, not just in ideas, but in our mindset.

A Labour government is not a magic wand

A Labour Government is not a magic wand that can simply wave away thirteen years of unprecedented chaos as if it never happened.

If we win, the rescue job will be like none other.

Think of it like this: if our job in 1997 was to rebuild a crumbling public realm, in 1964 – to modernise an economy left behind by the pace of technological change, or in 1945 – to build a new Britain out of the trauma of a collective sacrifice, then in 2024 – it will have to be all three.

And at a time when our politics feels broken, and when people are bruised by the past thirteen years. Doubt – even that the most basic of aspirations, that this country will be better for their children.

So our journey back to decency, security, standing tall. An NHS fit for the future, safer streets in your community, cheap and clean electricity in your home, higher growth in your town, the class ceiling – shattered.

It will be long. It will be difficult, and it will require extraordinary levels of determination.

But I look around this room, I look around this country, all four of our great nations and I know that together, we can do it and Britain can do it.

Which brings me to today’s work. Our National Policy Forum, another crucial step on that journey.

Bevan was right – we’re nothing without power

Now – as you know – the National Policy Forum is always an important part of our democratic process, the means that lets us reach out to the breadth of the Labour family.

To communities, through their representatives, to working people through their unions, and to our friendly societies and affiliates, guardians of the diverse intellectual history of this movement.

The Co-operative Party – the alliance that still holds firm, NEC Members, my colleagues in Parliament, charities and businesses, all the groups that have supported you through this process and of course our members who have entrusted so many of you with their voice, I say – let’s roll up our sleeves up and fix the fundamentals.

This is the messy business of democracy in action and I understand the responsibility that comes with representation.

Understand that a lot of work has gone into this, already and I thank you for it once again.

But before we get down to business, let me just say – remember – this is a process with a purpose.

Yes, it’s a huge step on the road to our manifesto but don’t forget that Clause One of our party commits us, first and foremost, to win power.

That’s my ultimate duty.

The “language of priorities” is our religion, everyone remembers that quote from Nye Bevan. But they sometimes forget the rest of his argument in that speech. That “only by the possession of power can you get the priorities correct”.

That’s what he said – and he was right. We’re nothing without power.

If anyone needs further convincing, just look out the window, look at our country – the stagnation, the economic pain, the cuts to public services, attacks on working people, legislation that hits to the very core of your democratic rights hard won, over many centuries, by the great men and women of this movement.

I can stand here and say we will change all that in government. And we will. But that is the prize of power.

Tough choices is the day-to-day reality we face if we win

So let me say something about economic stability – which I know is at the forefront of many of the debates we are having here today.

It is an imperative It is always an imperative. Every successful Labour project – including in 1945 – has been built firmly upon it.

Because if you play fast and loose with the fundamentals of competent economic management then ultimately – it’s working people that pay the price.

That’s the state of the country right now – in a nutshell. The damage that happens when you lose control of the economy. It’s all around us.

Less than twelve months ago – one of the clearest lessons you will ever see. When Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng blew-up the economy, tanked the pound, for tax cuts for the richest one per cent – don’t forget that bit.

But most importantly – they were totally unfunded. That’s the lesson I’m afraid – there’s no short-cuts.

“Tough choices” is not a soundbite. It’s the day-to-day reality we will face if we win power – clearing up their mess.

Even if those unfunded commitments were for worthy things, they would still have left working people paying the price again.

That’s the lesson of economic stability. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have hope – not a bit of it.

The biggest levelling up of workers’ rights for decades

Take our mission for cleaner, cheaper electricity by 2030. If we pull that off, against this backdrop, that’ll be right up there with building the NHS out of the rubble of the Second World War.

An act of defiance to those who mistakenly say Britain can no longer achieve great things.

Or our New Deal for Working People, the biggest levelling up of workers’ rights in decades, a chance to finally make work pay in this country, after years of stagnation.

We are clear – we want the highest sustained growth in the G7. We need the highest sustained growth in the G7.But we won’t get there without fundamental economic reforms.

Changing Britain’s business model and that means fixing our broken labour market, which does far too little to encourage good jobs and locks out too many communities from opportunity.

Not enough security for working people and we’re going to fix that. Fix it for growth. Fix it for working people.

Tackling child poverty and social injustice

That is the thing about our five national missions. We have a long-term plan for long-term prosperity.

And they all come with clear targets that define success as we see it. The Britain we hope to build.

So – take any of them. Take our target of halving violence against women and girls or our commitment to get half a million more children hitting their early development targets by 2030.

They aren’t going to happen without bold ideas and I know that tackling child poverty and tackling social injustice, that’s a massive part of it as well.

We won’t achieve those missions without that, of course we won’t.

We have to go about this step by step

But we do have to go about this step by step, shoulder to shoulder, it’s a long-term project. A project that will only be realised with credibility and discipline.

That understands spending commitments must always be funded, and because they must always be funded, that you can’t just keep on piling them up.

That’s the old point about priorities again and it must shape our work today for two reasons.

One, because the Tories are watching us. Looking for us to slip up. Make no mistake – they’ve given up on government and they have got no record to defend.

So next year, whenever the election comes, we know how they will fight it – that’s the lesson of Uxbridge.

All they can do now is oppose Labour, attack our plans to distract from their record. So we’ve got to be ready in everything we do, starting today.

Two, because in the end, power is a partnership. Certainly in this party – but in times like this, that’s the only way to govern our country.

Democracy is a shared undertaking. A collective mission.

There are priorities that are contested, negotiated, debated

Yes, there are priorities that are contested, debated, negotiated, absolutely. Just like today and tomorrow.

But in times like these, this country will only go forward where we find a way to pull together.

Business and worker, public and private, politics and people. A country united by a higher cause that we never compromise on.

An understanding that a nation is not just a country, but a community with obligations that we owe to each other.

So today and tomorrow as well as your democratic duty, hold that thought in your mind. Reach for that higher cause and show that our party is ready. That our priorities are the priorities of working people.

That we see the country through their eyes and can deliver in defiance of a volatile world, in defiance of the mess the Tories have made. A Britain that truly serves working people.

Thank you very much.

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