Promising “a decade of national renewal”, his speech centred around the 5 key missions that his government would strive towards as he sought to answer the question “why Labour?”
For some U.K. voters, being the person most likely to kick the Conservatives out of power is enough of a pull to win their vote. However, much of the electorate wants to see a vision for the country in order to part with their vote in the ballot box. On Tuesday, at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, Sir Keir Starmer looked to set out his plan for government.
1. Get Britain building again
Starmer pledged to “bulldoze” through a restrictive planning system to build 1.5 million homes and the next generation of new towns. This is undoubtedly needed as Britain faces a huge deficit of homes, but must be done in the right way.
It is a blatant absurdity that at present, new-build homes are not required to install solar panels, and owing to Sunak’s latest policy, will be able to install gas boilers as late as 2035.
Construction is a high-emitting sector, responsible for 37% of global emissions in 2021. Whilst Starmer did indicate that this would include building on the green belt, if new development is done in a way that prioritises people over vehicles, with gentle density encouraging public transport use and active travel, residents will be able to live more sustainably in the “Labour new towns.”
2. Switch on Great British Energy
Great British Energy is at the heart of Labour’s mission to transform Britain’s energy production to have zero-carbon electricity by 2030. Ed Miliband, Shadow Secretary of State for Net Zero and Climate Change, explained at the conference that this entails doubling onshore wind capacity, tripling solar capacity and quadrupling offshore wind energy production.
“Clean British energy is cheaper than foreign fossil fuels”Sir Keir Starmer
Whilst he freely admitted that the targets are ambitious, he added “[we need] ambition equal to the scale of the emergency we face”.
Some believe that renationalising the entire U.K. energy system would be preferable, but Miliband estimated the cost of doing so to be around £200 billion. These funds could be much better spent on upgrading the grid and improving strategic storage. Areas that the state-owned bodies are uniquely able to improve.
Recognising the seriousness of the climate crisis, unlike his Conservative counterpart, Starmer noted “climate change is a recipe for instability.”
The Labour leader was also keen to stress the opportunity it presents “climate change is an opportunity we can’t pass up”.
3. Get the NHS back on its feet
It is practically impossible to campaign for any election without discussing the NHS. Labour have vowed to cut waiting times and “get the NHS working round the clock and […] pay staff properly to do it”.
Labour wants to turn the NHS back into a healthcare service, rather than a “sickness service”.
From a public health and a climate perspective, the single most cost effective measure would be to encourage active travel within urban and suburban areas.
At a fringe event hosted by SERA, Labour’s Environment Campaign, the panel discussed how one third of year six children are classed as overweight when leaving primary school and one sixth people in the U.K. die due to inactivity-related illnesses.
4. Take back our streets
This was the least discussed element in Starmer’s speech, but a Labour government plans to put 13,000 more neighbourhood police and police community support officers on our streets.
5. Break down barriers to opportunity
Breaking the class ceiling and sharing opportunities within our society is central to Starmer’s mission. This is fundamental to making a more equitable and better country.
Describing inequality as “corrosive”, Starmer looks towards “a future where we believe workers rights are good for growth.”
The skeleton of Labour’s policy is now fully formed. The big vision inspires hope and will appeal to a broad voter base. It can at times feel a little vague — but it has broadly been well received by the electorate and businesses alike as a source of optimism for Britain’s future.