Keir Starmer is set to deliver his first major speech of 2023 today (5 January).
After a strong 2022 that saw Labour leap into a major lead in the polls amid the turmoil of the Boris Johnson and Liz Truss administrations, the UK’s biggest opposition party is seeking to continue to build up momentum ahead of the next general election. Its leader is set to pledge a “decade of national renewal” to the British public, and an end to “sticking plaster politics”.
Starmer’s speech comes just under a day after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak set out the government’s stall for the coming year. The PM’s speech included a pledge to make maths a compulsory subject at school up until the age of 18.
However, Sunak was criticised by Labour and other opposition parties for failing to address the current wave of public sector strikes in his own major speech. So, what will Keir Starmer say - and when can you watch his speech?
What will Keir Starmer say in speech?
Keir Starmer is set to outline Labour’s vision for government - something he hopes will become a reality at the next general election, which is widely expected in 2024.
He will tell the public that Labour will deliver a “new way of governing” as he bids to set his party apart from a scandal-ridden 12 months for Westminster politics that has included Partygate and multiple sexual misconduct allegations. Starmer will also pledge to create the “sort of hope you can build your future around”.
According to briefing released in advance of the speech, Starmer will say: “That’s why showing how we can change the country is so important this year. We can give people a sense of possibility again, show light at the end of the tunnel.”
The Labour leader will also cover the current crises engulfing the UK, including the cost of living crisis, soaring NHS waiting lists and strikes. But he is expected to warn that his pledges should not “be taken as code for Labour getting its big government chequebook out again”.
He will add: “Of course, investment is required – I can see the damage the Tories have done to our public services as plainly as anyone. But we won’t be able to spend our way out of their mess – it’s not as easy as that. There is no substitute for a robust, private sector, creating wealth in every community.”
The speech also looks set to cover devolution, with Starmer promising to end the status quo of “Westminster hoarding power”. It comes amid growing calls from Scottish nationalists for another vote on Scottish independence.
At present, we do not know how much policy Starmer will actually announce in this speech. But he will say that Labour’s approach to governing will be driven by “national missions” that will be set out over the coming weeks, and will be used in the party’s manifesto for the next election.
Starmer has already made some big policy announcements in recent weeks. In November, he said he would introduce a more “pragmatic” approach to immigration than the incumbent Conservative government.
And in December, he announced that a Labour government would abolish the House of Lords during its first term in office. It was one of a series of political reform measures set out in a report titled ‘A New Britain’ that Starmer co-authored with former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
However, Labour has come in for criticism over the past year for not talking enough about what it would do if it won the next general election. For example, Starmer has not taken a position on whether his party would give striking workers a pay rise.
What have the Conservatives said?
Conservative Party chairperson Nadhim Zahawi said Keir Starmer’s speech would be “yet another desperate relaunch attempt”.
He added: “Every week he changes his position depending on what he thinks is popular – from supporting free movement to supporting the unions, he’ll say anything if the politics suits him. He should stop giving cliche-laden speeches and, instead, finally unveil a plan for people’s priorities. He’s got nothing to say on how to cut crime, get immigration down, and reduce borrowing – that’s what the nation wants to see.
“Once again, Labour are failing to set out a positive, detailed, long-term plan to secure the future prosperity of Britain. They should stop playing politics and back our plan for a better future that delivers for all.”
What time is Keir Starmer’s speech?
Starmer had been hoping to be the first political leader to give a major policy speech in 2023, but Rishi Sunak brought his own speech forward in an apparent attempt to not appear to be on the back foot.
The Leader of the Opposition is set to deliver his speech in Stratford, East London on Thursday (5 January). It will begin at around 10am and will last for 20 minutes before the Labour leader takes questions from reporters.
There is likely to be full, live coverage of the event on the BBC News Channel and Sky News.