Sir Keir Starmer called for the creation of recovery bonds in his much-anticipated relaunch speech – but suffered a fresh setback as a poll found he was less popular than Boris Johnson.
The Labour leader hoped to revive his fortunes within his own party and among voters by setting out a bold vision for the country as well as a blitz of new policies.
He claimed Covid had created a ‘mood in the air’ similar to the aftermath of the Second World War, when Labour’s Clement Attlee seized power from Winston Churchill and built the welfare state.
Sir Keir said it was Labour’s ‘moral crusade’ to tackle inequality and start a new chapter for Britain, and said the Tories had created a ‘roadmap to yesterday’.
Sir Keir Starmer (pictured) said he was driven by the desire to change people’s lives and right injustices
Starmer, it was claimed, was going to be as ‘bold’ as Clement Attlee (pictured), whose post-war government created the NHS and welfare state
The ‘British recovery bond’ would raise billions to be invested in infrastructure and jobs in the wake of the economic and health crisis of the past year, he said.
Similar to other products offered by the state-run National Savings and Investments bank (NS&I), the bonds would be bought by households who have put cash away during the pandemic. ‘It would also provide security for savers and give millions of people a proper stake in Britain’s future,’ Sir Keir said.
‘This is bold, it’s innovative. And it’s an example of the active, empowering government I believe is needed if we’re to build a more secure economy.’
He also said if he were Prime Minister he would ‘back a new generation of British entrepreneurs’ by providing 100,000 start-up loans for new business.
But the Tories said neither idea was new, with the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank suggesting a Northern Recovery Bond last week, while start-up loans have run since 2012.
Digitally restored war propaganda poster. This vintage World War II poster features factory workers and a soldier charging into battle with his rifle
The Labour leader (pictured) hoped to revive his fortunes within his own party and among voters by setting out a bold vision for the country as well as a blitz of new policies
He also said if he were Prime Minister he would ‘back a new generation of British entrepreneurs’ by providing 100,000 start-up loans for new business
Amanda Milling, co-chairman of the Conservative Party, said: ‘Keir Starmer said this speech would deliver his big vision for the future of the country, a “policy blitz” with ideas to rival Beveridge and relaunch his failing leadership.
‘But there are only two new policies – one taken from the Conservatives and the other from the CPS, the think tank co-founded by Margaret Thatcher.
‘After ten months of Keir Starmer all Labour has to offer is others’ ideas, empty rhetoric and calling for things the Government is already doing.’
Sir Keir said he was driven by the desire to change people’s lives and right injustices, adding: ‘That’s not just about policy choices – it’s an utter determination that pulses through my veins.’
But polling by Savanta ComRes last night found he was less popular than the Prime Minister.
The survey put his net favourability at minus four, down two points in the past month, while Mr Johnson’s has risen from minus eight to minus two in a month.
The Labour leader also fell further behind on the question of who would make the best prime minister, with 27 per cent choosing him (down from 31) compared with 43 for Mr Johnson (up from 38).
Sir Keir’s speech failed to win over critics on the Left who argue he is not radical enough.
The No Holding Back group, set up by Corbynite MPs Ian Lavery and Jon Trickett, tweeted: ‘Dear Keir Starmer. Labour needs a partnership with society, paid for by taxation… not a partnership with business, paid for by society.’
Howard Beckett, from Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union, said the speech was ‘numerically illiterate’. But Christina McAnea, of the public sector union Unison, said: ‘Keir Starmer is right – what the UK needs after the pandemic is a bold change of direction, not a return to the failed austerity and spending cuts of the past.’
All stardust gone… now he’s on a journey to nowhere
By Andrew Pierce for the Daily Mail
As they tried desperately to attract the attention of the nation yesterday, Sir Keir Starmer’s aides promised that the Labour leader was about to unveil the most radical policy agenda since the Beveridge Reforms that reshaped Britain after the Second World War.
Alas, it was not to be.
Few pulses were set racing by yet another faintly wooden speech from an ex-lawyer whose reserves of stardust appear to be dwindling.
Sir Keir Starmer’s (pictured) aides promised that the Labour leader was about to unveil the most radical policy agenda since the Beveridge Reforms that reshaped Britain after the Second World War
Rattled by the increasingly noisy talk –much of it from former admirers – that suggests a ‘policy-light’ Starmer has no over-arching vision for the country, Labour apparatchiks had hoped the speech, grandly titled A New Chapter for Britain, would mark the political and economic dividing lines between the two main parties for the next decade.
Starmer, it was claimed, was going to be as ‘bold’ as Clement Attlee, whose post-war government created the NHS and welfare state.
In the end there were just two major initiatives: Start-up loans for 100,000 new businesses and so-called British Recovery Bonds.
The first idea was trailed as far back as 2012 by then Tory chancellor George Osborne. The second – which would see savers lend their money to the Government in return for a competitive interest rate, the cash used to rebuild the country post-Covid – was floated in the Daily Mail two weeks ago and is a pet policy of the Thatcherite think-tank the Centre for Policy Studies.
Two sensible-sounding ideas, but I very much doubt that they will be enough to change Starmer’s political fortunes.
A new poll gives Boris Johnson a 16-point lead – for Starmer, a dismal result at this stage in the electoral cycle after 120,000 Britons have lost their lives during the pandemic and as the country faces its worst economic crisis for 300 years. So why isn’t he cutting through?
One clue is provided by last month’s leaked strategy document, prepared by an external agency, which revealed that Labour voters were confused about ‘what we stand for… and who we represent’.
The proposed solution was for Starmer to appear more frequently beside the Union flag to ‘change the party’s body image’ – a move likely to appeal to the ‘red wall’ of working-class voters, especially in the north of England, captured by the Tories in the last election.
The flag-waving soon looked rather hollow, however, after a 2005 film emerged of Starmer admitting: ‘I often used to propose the abolition of the monarchy.’
The first idea was trailed as far back as 2012 by then Tory chancellor George Osborne (pictured in 2015)
In his leadership campaign, he positioned himself as the candidate who would end the civil war between Corbynites and Labour moderates. He won praise last year when he withdrew the whip from Jeremy Corbyn in the ongoing anti-Semitism row. Yet now the party’s hard Left is again agitating for control. Unlike Tony Blair, who relied heavily on his ‘old Left’, straight-talking deputy John Prescott, Starmer’s number two is the lightweight Angela Rayner, widely seen as coming from the ‘soft Left’, just as he does.
Starmer initially won praise at Prime Minister’s Questions with his understated forensic approach, honed in his former role as Director of Public Prosecutions. The style contrasted with Boris’s ‘bluster’.
In his leadership campaign, he positioned himself as the candidate who would end the civil war between Corbynites and Labour moderates. Pictured, Jeremy Corbyn
But to the horror of Starmer’s supporters, Boris is increasingly getting the upper hand in the Commons. A case in point came last month when Boris skewered Starmer over his support for the EU’s disastrous vaccine procurement. A tetchy Starmer shouted across the Chamber: ‘The PM knows I’ve never said that, from this despatch box or anywhere else!’
Within an hour Starmer had to issue a grovelling retraction.
The Tory jibe that Starmer is ‘Captain Hindsight’, repeatedly claiming that a certain policy was ‘obvious’ after the fact, has also started to stick.
Earlier this week the political strategist Tom Kibasi, a key figure in Starmer’s leadership campaign, said his leadership was on a ‘journey to nowhere’.
‘If Starmer were to depart as leader tomorrow he would not leave a trace of a meaningful project in his wake,’ he added.
The so-called landmark speech yesterday will do nothing to change that brutal assessment.