Yesterday we saw Prime Minister Rishi Sunak give his first speech of 2023. If you missed it, you didn’t miss much. Amongst vague policy ideas for the future, Sunak announced a more immediate “five-point plan” to grow the economy, shrink inflation, reduce national debt and NHS waiting lists, and pass new laws to stop the small boats crisis. Hardly ambitious – and in the words of the Labour Party – “so easy it would be difficult not to achieve them”. My full analysis is here.
Today it’s Keir Starmer’s turn. The leader of the opposition will deliver a speech setting out his vision for the country in Stratford, east London, at around 10am. He will argue the case for a Labour government and promise to deliver “a decade of national renewal” and “the economy and the politics Britain deserves”.
So what will the shadow leader say? Starmer will want to inspire the electorate and show that Labour is a serious alternative to the Tories. It won’t be hard for the shadow leader to give a more convincing performance than the Prime Minister yesterday, but the pressure will be on Starmer to present a consequential vision rooted in logic and pragmatism.
The Labour Party has already trailed some of its major proposed policies. It has pledged £28bn in climate investment and a radical overhaul of the childcare system. Starmer has told the public on a number of occasions that he is committed to the NHS and intends to run a mass recruitment programme to put an end to staff shortages. Much like the Tories, growth is at the heart of Labour’s plans.
But it would be wrong to think Labour is about to announce a series of spending pledges. Starmer is expected to promise that he will bring an end to the era of “sticking plaster politics” and will remind voters that “none of this should be taken as code for Labour getting its big government chequebook out again”. Starmer is keen to show restraint and will make it clear that growth must be robust and sustainable. Government investment will be only where necessary, and partnerships with the private sector will be a cornerstone of Labour policy.
Of particular interest will be what Starmer says about the NHS. Over recent days doctors have been warning of “intolerable and sustainable” pressures in the health service, and a number of hospitals have declared critical incidents. People are naturally worried about the sustainability of the health service.
There have already been rows over the future of the NHS reform; Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, has made it clear that some elements of privatisation would form part of their future NHS strategy. This is a difficult sell for many, so Starmer will be keen to reassure the public that the health service, as well as the economy, are in safe hands with Labour.
[See also: How an NHS doctor burns out]