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Starmer says Labour’s vision for government will not lead to big spending

The Opposition leader is expected to declare that putting him in No 10 would not result in getting a ‘big government chequebook out’.

05 January 2023

A future Labour government will not “spend our way out” of the “mess” inherited from the Conservatives, Sir Keir Starmer will pledge.

The Labour leader is set to follow Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s vision-setting for the country by outlining his own blueprint for Britain in a new year speech in east London.

Sir Keir and his shadow cabinet have been keen to pour cold water on Conservative accusations that the party cannot be trusted with the economy.

He is expected to tell an audience in Stratford that his fresh pledges “should not be “taken as code for Labour getting its big government chequebook out again”.

He is expected to say: “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.”

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves echoed that sentiment during an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in which she said Labour would have to use both investment and reforms to sort Britain’s current woes.

“We know we can’t make all the changes we want to see overnight,” she said.

“The neglect of our health service and the failure to grow our economy these last 13 years means an incoming Labour government is going to face a tough inheritance.

“But, with Labour, the cavalry is coming.”

Start-Up Review
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said reforms would have to help drive changes as well as spending (James Manning/PA)

Asked whether Labour would get close to the £70 billion extra that the Health Foundation charity has estimated will be required by the NHS by 2030, Ms Reeves pointed to the financial chaos that ensued during the short tenure of former prime minister Liz Truss.

“So much that we want to do requires money, but so much also requires reform of our public services,” she said.

Such reforms could involve increasing the amount of spare private health sector capacity the NHS currently uses, Ms Reeves confirmed.

Put to her that some within the Labour Party might consider such a stance to be “privatisation by the back door”, Ms Reeves added: “It is absolutely not.

“It is not fair that, if you don’t have the money and resources, you are waiting for months and months, sometimes years, to get hospital operations. I won’t allow that.”

Sir Keir’s first speech of 2023 comes a day after the Prime Minister delivered his own address, promising to halve inflation, deal with NHS waiting lists, and tackle small boats crossing the English Channel.

Rishi Sunak visit to Plexal
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gave his first major domestic speech of 2023 at Plexal, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Opposition leader is expected to pledge to create the “sort of hope you can build your future around”.

Speaking about the future of the country, Sir Keir is set to say: “This new year, let us imagine what we could achieve if we match the ambition of the British people, unlock their pride and their purpose, give them an economy and a politics they deserve.

“That’s why I say Britain needs a completely new way of governing.

“You can’t overstate how much a short-term mindset dominates Westminster, and, from there, how it infects all the institutions which try, and fail, to run Britain from the centre.”

On the NHS, the Labour leader will talk about how the crises affecting the country have each been “an iceberg on the horizon”.

The new approach to governing will be driven by “national missions”, which Labour is expected to set out in the coming weeks, and which the Opposition will use to build its next election manifesto.

Conservative Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi said the speech will be “yet another desperate relaunch attempt”.

“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 said.

“He should stop giving cliche-laden speeches and, instead, finally unveil a plan for people’s priorities.”

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