Good morning. Keir Starmer is set to deliver his new year’s message tomorrow, and accordingly there’s been a drip of briefings. Yesterday, it was promises to tackle voter apathy and disillusionment in the i.
Last night, The Guardian reported on plans to crack down on cronyism and fraud “against the public purse”. The latter will risk harsher sentences of up to a decade in an attempt to restore public faith in politicians and institutions.
The Labour leader is reportedly expected to say that “trust in politics is now so low, so degraded, that nobody believes anyone can make a difference any more”, continuing that “after the sex scandals, the expenses scandals, the waste scandals, the contracts for friends”, people think politicians are “in it for themselves”.
Starmer’s effort to draw a dividing line (implicit or otherwise) with the Conservatives on standards comes ahead of two by-elections relating very directly to just that theme. In Wellingborough, Peter Bone was suspended from parliament after bullying a staff member; in Blackpool South his Tory colleague (now sitting as an independent) Scott Benton has also been recommended for suspension, having been filmed offering to lobby government ministers and on behalf of gambling interests. These will be the 20th and 21st by-elections this parliament.
Another trailed titbit: Starmer will, the Telegraph says, further distance himself from Jeremy Corbyn. Not exactly surprising, but given just how many times Starmer has done so already, one wonders if the Labour leader may have any more formal, bureaucratic tricks up his sleeve, or whether we will simply be treated to continual verbal disavowals to hammer the message home.
Junior doctors on strike
This morning marks the start of the longest doctors’ strike in NHS history. Junior doctors in the British Medical Association will walk out for six days over pay.
At the moment, the strikes are a political headache for the Tories and Health Secretary Victoria Atkins. Of course it could become Labour’s too, if we win the election and the dispute rumbles on.
While Labour may be more amenable to unions and public services than the current government, it would be a mistake to imagine in a bleak fiscal climate that there will be any easy resolutions to NHS pay issues if the party win power.
On LabourList today, we have insights into the the current state of the NHS and conditions for doctors – and intriguing ideas for what Labour should do about them – from NHS doctor Tom Riddington.
In other Labour news…
WELSH LABOUR LEADERSHIP: One of the big Labour stories of the next few months – that isn’t, for once, related to the general election, in as much as anything isn’t – will be the race to replace Mark Drakeford as Welsh Labour leader and First Minister. There are two people are running: Jeremy Miles and Vaughan Gething. Yesterday we got an insight into Miles’ plans for the office he’s seeking,which you can read here. Keep an eye on LabourList for updates on the campaign.
NEU: The National Education Union welcomed yesterday’s news that Ofsted inspections were to be paused. General secretary Daniel Kebede commented:”Sir Martyn Oliver’s announcement of a pause in school inspections signals that the Chief Inspector recognises that it is now time for Ofsted to listen to the voice of educators and their unions. The pause should be the start of a root and branch reform of school inspection.”
TAX PLANS: A report in the i suggests that the “Tory tax calculator” released yesterday hints at Labour plans to reform tax thresholds (The i).
DON’T GET COMPLACENT: Starmer chief strategist Morgan McSweeney has warned the Shadow Cabinet that Labour’s poll lead could yet collapse, and argued that the party must not be complacent as we start the general election year (Guardian).
HEXHAM: Labour’s PPC in Hexham, Joe Morris, has made the local press with his pledges to campaign for farmers as part of a “new deal for farmers” if elected as the area’s first Labour MP (Hexham Courant).Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.