Keir Starmer has said that changing his views is key to political success as he refused to confirm that Labour would scrap university tuition fees or raise taxes on the top 5 per cent of earners. Both policies were promised in the party’s 2019 general election manifesto and in Starmer’s campaign to become Labour leader in 2020.
“What we’ve done with the last manifesto  is put it to one side. We’re starting from scratch. The slate is wiped clean,” he told the New Statesman’s Politics Live conference.
“What we do have to recognise is that, having come through the pandemic, we need to look at everything in the round, and make choices about where we want to put our money,” Starmer said when asked whether he stood by his pledge to scrap tuition fees. He suggested that he was open to reform, however: “[The current arrangements] don’t really work for students, they don’t really work for the universities. So of course, we’re going to have to look at that.”
Left-wing critics of Starmer will take his remarks as evidence that he is abandoning the policies he promised during his leadership campaign. Later, when asked how he reconciled the radical views of his youth with his more moderate approach now, Starmer said: “If you don’t change your views as you experience life, then you’re probably not going to get very far. People sort of drag out something that you said 40 years ago and say, ‘Well, you’ve changed your mind about that.’ Of course I have. I have changed my mind on loads of things – that’s because I’ve done loads of things.”
Starmer emphasised that a programme for economic growth would underpin Labour’s next manifesto. “I can tell you now the next election is going to be fought on the economy. The cost-of-living crisis is causing such hardship for so many people. We have to get the economy growing… All those [other issues] are secondary questions to the question [of] how are you going to grow the economy.”
The Labour leader also confirmed reports that the party is planning to govern for at least two terms should it win the next general election. He refused to deny claims that Labour is in talks with several Conservative MPs about defecting to the party. Any defectors would follow in the footsteps of Christian Wakeford, the Bury South MP, who left the Tories for Labour in January.
[See also: Is this the end for Boris Johnson?]