Sir Keir Starmer has set out five national “missions” for if the Labour party gains power at the next general election.
In a keynote speech in Manchester on Thursday (23 February), the Labour leader said the country needs a “serious plan” if it is to fix some of the deep-seated problems it is facing.
Sir Keir’s plan contrasts with the “sticking plaster politics” of Rishi Sunak’s five priorities set out in his new year address, with Labour’s measures aimed at tackling the NHS crisis and a pledge to make the UK the fastest growing economy in the G7. He also stressed that he is ready to draw on investment and expertise from the public and private sectors to “get the job done”.
With a general election potentially little over a year away, party officials said the “mission” plan will form the backbone of their manifesto. Over the coming months, Labour will set out a series of “measurable ambitions” for each mission, beginning with its plan for economic growth.
A party spokesman said Labour will draw on Sir Keir’s experience of having run the Crown Prosecution Service for five years to establish a set of clear objectives for what they want to achieve in office. He said: “The missions are an important part of focusing government, prioritising not just spending but time in government.”
What are Labour’s five ‘missions’?
Sir Keir’s “missions”, which will form the backbone of Labour’s election manifesto, are:
- A plan for the economy with an aim of securing the highest sustained growth in the G7 group of developed nations
- Build an NHS fit for the future
- Make Britain’s streets safe
- Break down the barriers to opportunity at every stage
- Make Britain a clean energy superpower
Labour has claimed that Sunak’s approach amounts to “sticking plaster politics”, but the Prime Minister argued that his five goals are in line with the “people’s priorities”. They are:
- Halving inflation this year to ease the cost of living and give people financial security
- Growing the economy, creating better-paid jobs and opportunity across the country
- Making sure national debt is falling
- Getting NHS waiting lists down and ensuring people get the care they need more quickly
- Stopping the small boats crossing the English Channel, with new laws to make sure that if people come to the country illegally they are detained and deported
The former director of public prosecution said his approach was about doing away with “sticking-plaster politics” and dealing with the “everyday frustrations that people have that almost nothing seems to be working”. He said the NHS and energy sectors needed solutions to take them out of the annual cycle of battling winter crises.
Sir Keir said his plan for a “mission-driven government” would “ruffle feathers across Whitehall” and compared the shift to leading a sports team, with a clear focus on the goals needed to deliver the required outcome.
Speaking in Manchester, he said: “I’m not going to turn up to Parliament in a tracksuit. But I do believe Britain needs a clearer sense of purpose and that the way we run our country can be more like a brilliant sports team pursuing victory.
“The government can be driven forward by clear, focused objectives. And that this approach is vital for Britain to get its confidence, its hope, and its future back.”
He added that “sticking plaster politics” was holding the country back, stating: “Pick any of the current problems: energy security, productivity, immigration, we could be here all day, but it wouldn’t matter: the pattern is always the same.
“Distracted by the short-term obsessions that fixate Westminster, held back by a cynicism, which uses low trust in politics as an excuse to narrow our ambitions, blinkered to the potential of an active government setting the direction, we lurch from crisis to crisis, always reacting, always behind the curve. A sticking plaster, never a cure.”
Sir Keir used Tony Blair’s promise of being “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” as he set out his national missions and said each one will be “laser-targeted” at addressing the root causes of a series of complex problems which demand new thinking.
Asked how voters could trust his five missions given some on the left of his party have accused him of dropping pledges that won him the 2020 leadership race, Sir Keir said they “haven’t all been abandoned by any stretch of the imagination”.
He argued instead that his promises had to be adapted following the Covid pandemic, the outbreak of the Ukraine war and the economic fallout after former prime minister Liz Truss and former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget.
He added: “The more I delve into these challenges, the more I can see things that are simply not working. Things that could be sped up, joined up, given direction, made to work better. This is at the core of my politics.
“Government can prevent problems, as well as fix them. Can shape markets rather than serving them. Can lead a collective national effort on growth and innovation. But without reforming the role of government – none of that will happen. Equally, I’m not concerned about whether investment or expertise comes from the public or private sector – I just want to get the job done.
“With missions comes greater stability and certainty – instead of a government chopping and changing all the time, blowing with the wind. The missions will be anchor points to show clearly the direction of travel.”