Britain on a mission: Starmer’s five priorities
- In a landmark speech, Keir Starmer has aimed his Labour party squarely at a different concept of government: active, long-term, and purpose-driven.
- Of his five stated ‘missions’, the target for economic growth – to make the UK the fastest-growing economy in the G7 by the end of a first term – stands out for its clarity and ambition.
- Starmer’s growing confidence as prime minister in waiting is apparent: staking new ground and increasingly assured as the Conservatives continue to struggle internally and externally.
- Businesses will need to take account of the call for public/private ‘partnership’ that characterises the new Labour approach to government – and plan strategically to meet that demand.
Leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer has set out five ‘missions’ for a future Labour government today in a major speech delivered in Manchester. ‘Missions’ are defined by Starmer as distinct from the ‘consumer pledges’ that have characterised previous Labour election campaigns, most famously Tony Blair’s in 1997 and less famously Ed Miliband’s in 2015.
They are also designed to draw a clear dividing line between Starmer’s ‘long-term, serious’ approach and Rishi Sunak’s five pledges for 2023 – dubbed ‘short-term, sticking plaster politics’ by Starmer and his Shadow Cabinet, which has also attacked the Prime Minister for a lack of ambition and clarity. Thus, each mission will eventually include a measurable goal and the building blocks to achieve them, Starmer argued, enabling a strategic plan that both addresses the present and the future.
The five missions will focus on the following key areas:
- Secure the highest sustained growth in the G7 – making everyone better off
- Build an NHS fit for the future – reforming health and care services to speed up treatment and cut health inequalities
- Make Britain’s streets safe – reforming police and criminal justice systems, tackling crime earlier, addressing violence against women and girls
- Break down the barriers to opportunity – reforming childcare and education, preparing young people for work and for life
- Make Britain a clean energy superpower, with 100% clean energy by 2030
Having drawn back from several of the promises that took him to the Labour leadership in 2020, which reflected a party reeling from an historic general election defeat and the scandals associated with Jeremy Corbyn, Starmer currently enjoys a large and stable lead in the polls. The consensus among political commentators has long been that this lead could be softer than it looks if Labour approaches the next election without putting a clear and distinctive offer to voters. Given the long-term policy and reputational problems facing the government, and the slow erosion of Sunak’s own popularity, this view appears based more on past experience than current evidence.
However, Starmer’s missions recognise that the UK has been through a period of volatility and crisis unknown in the post-war period. The global financial crisis has had lasting impacts on wages and household wealth; Brexit has caused serious damage to the UK’s international reputation as well as economic and trading performance; and the Covid-19 pandemic continues to weigh on productivity and the labour market. Meanwhile, persistently high inflation is contributing to a cost-of-living crisis affecting a greater proportion of British voters than those who have previously experienced the stress and anxiety of poverty.
These realities draw unavoidable parameters for Starmer. While Blair and Brown were cautious and even rhetorically conservative in 1997, they inherited a strong and growing economy which enabled enormous new investment in public services. They did not have to make an argument for growth in that context. By contrast, Starmer has had to accept at least partially Liz Truss’s argument that higher growth is the most important single focus for any government: the starting point for any of the other missions to be feasible.
It’s this that drives his pragmatism on how things are done: saying he isn’t bothered about whether investment and change comes from the public or the private sector. A ‘genuine partnership’ between government, business, civil society and the public is what he seeks: ‘change for all from all’.
After thirteen years of Conservative-led government, many companies may lack the knowledge and connections to start to build a strategy fit for Starmer’s vision. Businesses and investors alike will need to take account of this call for public/private ‘partnership’ that characterises the new Labour approach to government – and adjust their own strategies and communications to meet that demand.
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