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5 December 2022

How radical will Keir Starmer be on constitutional reform?

It remains to be seen how many of Gordon Brown's 40 recommendations the party leader embraces.

By Rachel Wearmouth

Today Keir Starmer will pledge the “biggest ever transfer of power from Westminster to the British people” as he launches a major report recommending a radical overhaul of the constitution.

Gordon Brown‘s Commission on the UK’s Future endorses giving mayors and devolved governments new economic, taxation and legislative powers.

It includes replacing the “indefensible” House of Lords with an elected second chamber, and moving 50,000 civil servants out of London.

The review also says the next Labour government should cultivate “300 emerging clusters of the new economy” and eliminate “Westminster and Whitehall bias and giving everywhere a fair share of our future prosperity”.

There is a focus on employment, with devolved powers to gain control over economic development and job centres to help people find work.

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Brown also advocates for a regional investment bank and giving local authorities control of housing – including compulsory purchase orders on vacant sites – and transport.

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There are plans to clean up politics with an “integrity commission” to counter the sleaze and falling standards in public life, banning MPs from holding almost all second jobs and curbing the influence of wealth and foreign money in Westminster.

There will also be proposals to boost the Scottish government and allow Holyrood to enter into international agreements and bodies such as Erasmus, Unesco and the Nordic Council.

The abolition of the Lords is probably the most controversial section, but it’s a policy Labour has already backed. Some peers are pushing back on the idea; John McFall, the Lord Speaker, is expected to give a speech on Wednesday calling for consensus-based reform.

Some within Labour have also cautioned against it on the grounds that Starmer could become bogged down in constitutional arguments.

All in all there are 40 recommendations, amounting to a Labour vision for “levelling up”. Starmer will sell them as a continuation of the reforms proposed by Tony Blair.

However, most are not yet Labour policy and will be the subject of a consultation, so it remains to be seen how radical Starmer is willing to be.

[See also: Gordon Brown: Why it’s time to take the shame out of the cost-of-living crisis]

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