KEIR Starmer will today insist Britain faces a choice between a Labour future based on security and opportunity or the Conservatives’ failed ideology that represents a “roadmap to yesterday”.
And in a keynote address ahead of the March 3 Budget, the Labour leader will set out a vision of a “new partnership” between a future government under his leadership and the business community, which “tackles inequality, invests in the future and builds a more secure and prosperous economy”.
The speech appears to have echoes of New Labour’s determined attempt to combine social justice with economic prudence and marks another step away from the radical left-wing socialism of Jeremy Corbyn.
In recent days, concerns have been expressed at the direction of Labour and how, in the midst of Boris Johnson’s handling of the pandemic, the Opposition at Westminster is still behind the Tories in the polls.
A leaked strategy document revealed how some voters did not know what Labour stood for and it urged the party to focus on a new patriotic approach, including more use of the Union flag.
As the Labour leader seeks to carve out a distinctive policy base radically different from the Prime Minister’s, there have been suggestions how he has been in talks about the party’s future direction with Lord Mandelson, the former Trade and Business Secretary and one of the key architects of New Labour, which won three successive general elections.
In his address, Sir Keir will declare that there can be “no return to business as usual” and the “failed Conservative ideology” that has left Britain exposed to the pandemic as he spells out Labour’s vision for “a new chapter for Britain.”
He will say the pandemic has exposed a Tory approach that has “weakened the foundations of our society,” “failed the British people” and “proved incapable of providing security for the long-term.”
The Labour leader will say: “In a few weeks’ time, we will have a Budget that will be a fork in the road.
“We can go back to the same insecure and unequal economy that has been so cruelly exposed by the virus or we can seize this moment and go forward to a future that is going to look utterly unlike the past. That choice will define the Budget and it will define the next election.”
Sir Keir will liken the moment to that of 1945 when Britain, after the devastation of a world war, looked to rebuild a more just, equitable and prosperous future.
“This must now be a moment to think again about the country that we want to be,” the party leader will declare.
“A call to arms like the Beveridge Report was in the 1940s. A chance to diagnose the condition of Britain and to start the process of putting it right. That’s the path I would take in the March Budget.
“To begin a new chapter in the history for our country and to equip Britain for the opportunities of the future.”
Sir Keir will call for immediate support at next month’s Budget to help secure our economy for families and businesses, including:
*reversing planned cuts to Universal Credit, benefiting six million families by £1,000 a year;
*providing local councils with the funding they need to prevent a Conservative council tax bombshell and
*extending the business rate holiday and the VAT cut for hospitality and leisure.
Calling for a “new partnership” between Government and business that tackles inequality, invests in the future and builds a more secure and prosperous economy, the Labour leader will make clear that “none of this is possible if you don’t believe in the power of good government and the need to create a new partnership between an active state and enterprising business”.
He will stress: “Under my leadership, Labour’s priority will always be financial responsibility. I know the value of people’s hard-earned money – I take that incredibly seriously – and I know that people rightly expect the government to look after it too.
“To invest wisely and not to spend money we can’t afford. Those are my guiding principles but Covid has shifted the axis on economic policy; both what is necessary and what is possible have changed.
“The age in which Government did little but collect and distribute revenue is over. The mistakes of the last decade have made sure of that.
“I believe people are now looking for more from their Government like they were after the Second World War. They’re looking for Government to help them through difficult times, to provide security and to build a better future for them and their families.
“They want a Government that knows the value of public services not just the price in the market,” Sir Keir will insist. “A Government that invests in British skills, science, universities and manufacturing that provides world-class education for our children and whose driving mission it is to tackle inequalities from birth.
“They want a Government that can ensure people don’t have to leave their home town to have a chance of getting a good job or to leave university with crippling debt.
“That can build a new generation of affordable homes and not stand idly by while millions are denied the dream of homeownership.
“They want a Government that can shape the future of work, harness the opportunities of automation and technology that will ensure care homes are places of dignity in retirement.
“They want a Government that reflects our values on the global stage and that puts tackling the climate emergency at the centre of everything we do.”
This, the Labour leader will argue, is what he means when he talks of a future where Britain can be the best place to grow up in and the best place to grow old in.
“But none of this is possible,” he will warn, “if you don’t believe in the power of good government and the need to create a new partnership between an active government and enterprising business.”
Sir Keir will take on the Government’s record over the last year, accusing them of talking the language of change but proving themselves unable to deliver on it.
“If you can’t decide whether to plunge hundreds of thousands of children into poverty by cutting Universal Credit, you have no chance of mending our broken social security system.
“If you vote against children getting free school meals, you’re not going to find the solution to millions of children growing up in poverty.
“If you can’t support three million self-employed people, but you can spray billions on contracts that don’t deliver for our NHS, you’re not going to be able to build the economy of the future.
“And if you freeze pay for millions of key workers, you’re hardly going to build the high wage, high standards Britain we need to be.”
The Labour leader will add: “Despite the scale of the moment, all we can expect from this government is more of the same; a roadmap to yesterday.”