What are Labour leader Keir Starmer's top priorities?

The opposition leader is increasingly looking overseas to boost his image as a prime minister-in-waiting

Labour leader Keir Starmer laid out 'five missions for a better Britain'. PA
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All eyes will be on Keir Starmer at next week’s Labour Party conference in Liverpool, which is likely to be the last before the next general election.

Since taking the helm of the opposition in 2020, the former director of public prosecutions has led Labour out of the dark period in which it was mired in an anti-Semitism scandal.

Mr Starmer has worked hard to clean up the party’s image and rebuild trust with voters but his support for former leader Jeremy Corbyn continues to be a thorn in his leadership.

The party's win in Thursday’s by-election in Scotland’s Rutherglen and Hamilton West offered a boost for Labour ahead of its annual conference.

Mr Starmer is increasingly seeking to portray himself as a prime minister-in-waiting and forge solid relationships with world leaders.

Weeks after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled his five key pledges to the British public at the start of the year, Mr Starmer offered “five missions for a better Britain”.

So what is Mr Starmer’s vision for Britain as he leads the party towards the next nationwide vote, with his focus fixed squarely on getting the keys to No 10 Downing Street?

Highest economic growth in G7

By the end of Labour’s first term in government it will have delivered the highest sustained growth in the G7, Mr Starmer has pledged.

A Labour administration would be focused on delivering “growth from the grass roots”, powered by good jobs and stronger productivity in all regions, not only in London, he said.

He said ministers would “use levers like procurement to build up those supply chains that are critical for our security” and “reset” relations with the EU.

His vow includes avoiding recession and ensuring debt is falling.

Achieving the highest growth among G7 allies – France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan, the US, as well as the EU – will be no small feat.

The UK economy is caught in a “doom loop”, the Institute for Public Policy Research said in June.

Health service reforms

A shake-up of the National Health Service (NHS) to deliver better care will be among the priorities of a Starmer-led government.

He pledged to “build an NHS fit for the future”, concentrating on reforming health and social care to speed up treatment, and channel resources into addressing the causes of preventable illnesses.

In his speech outlining the five pillars of his manifesto, he said health inequality would be reduced and funding would be found to train more medical students.

Labour would create 7,500 more medical school places and 10,000 more nursing and midwifery clinical placements per year.

Mr Starmer has made much of his family’s connection to the NHS, describing his late mother as a “proud nurse”, while his wife continues to work in the health service.

Clean energy

“We will make Britain a clean-energy superpower,” Mr Starmer pledged boldly in a speech in Manchester outlining his plan in February.

At last year’s conference, Labour announced its intention to create a new publicly owned green energy firm, named Great British Energy, if it gets into power.

The party promised to harness the country’s sun, wind and wave energy to save households £93 billion on bills. By the end of the decade Britain will be powered exclusively by clean power, the party promised.

By the end of its first term in office Labour will have spent £28 billion 9$34 billion) per year on green jobs and industry, the party said.

UK's opposition pledges publicly owned energy company

UK's opposition pledges publicly owned energy company

But in June the opposition scaled back this aspect, postponing plans to borrow the annual sum in a bid to improve its fiscal credibility.

Instead, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said the party would increase investment over time from a 2024 election win, to reach £28 billion a year after 2027.

She said the decision was taken because “the Tories have crashed our economy”.

Safer streets

Labour has sought to blame 13 years of Conservative power for rising levels of knife crime, domestic violence and rape.

Fewer police officers patrolling neighbourhoods has led to more crimes being committed and more young people being drawn into criminal networks, the party said.

Labour has pledged to halve the level of violent crime within a decade and bring public confidence in police and the criminal justice system to new heights.

Mr Starmer said he would “tackle the crime wave gnawing away at our collective sense of security” and make street across the UK safer.

Youth workers would be stationed at accident and emergency departments in hospitals to reach out to young people involved in gang activity. Online sites promoting and selling machetes and dangerous knives would be held to account.

The Labour leader accused the Tory government of being silent on crime and lacking an urgent plan to address issues, including an estimated daily 300 rapes in the UK.

Opportunity for all

This mission encompasses a wide range of areas including education, childcare and preparing the next generation of Britons for work and living an adult life.

The aim is to make society fairer, break down barriers to opportunity for children and raise standards on several fronts.

The childcare system would be upgraded under Labour with breakfast clubs in every primary school.

Pupils will have a “world-class teacher in every classroom” and 6,500 teaching staff would be recruited.

This would be paid for by abolishing tax breaks for private schools.

A broader curriculum would be ushered in to better equip students with the tools they need for life. There will be an emphasis on developing creativity as well as digital and speaking skills.

Apprenticeships and skills training will be expanded.

Labour has enjoyed a double-digit lead over the Tories in opinion polls for more than a year.

In his address to the party conference last year, shortly after Liz Truss’s mini-budget wreaked havoc on the economy, Mr Starmer said “this is a Labour moment”.

Updated: October 08, 2023, 5:00 AM