Keir Starmer says he is scrapping Labour’s manifesto and ‘starting from scratch’ on policy

Opposition leader previously said 2017 manifesto was ‘our foundational document’ when trying to woo members

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Tuesday 28 June 2022 12:36 BST
<p> Keir Starmer at a press conference following Labour’s Wakefield by-election win on June 24, 2022 </p>

Keir Starmer at a press conference following Labour’s Wakefield by-election win on June 24, 2022

Keir Starmer has said he will scrap Labour's last election manifesto and is "starting from scratch" on policies.

Speaking on Tuesday the Labour leader said he was putting the existing set of policies "to one side" and that "the slate is wiped clean".

His comments represent a reversal of a previous pledge. During the 2019 leadership election Sir Keir described the 2017 election manifesto as Labour's "foundational document", praised its "radicalism" and said: "We have to hang on to that as we go forward".

But speaking at an event organised by the New Statesman magazine today Sir Keir said: “What we’ve done with the last manifesto is put it to one side. We’re starting from scratch. The slate is wiped clean."

The U-turn is likely to anger some Labour members, who voted for him to be leader on a different prospectus. Left-wingers leapt on the comments and said he was taking “a tepid, unprincipled approach”.

Sir Keir, who promised during the 2019 leadership election to abolish tuition fees if he became prime minister, suggested that the pandemic meant he could break the pledge.

Asked whether he stood by the free education policy, he said: “What we do have to recognise is that having come through the pandemic, we need to look at everything in the round, and make choices about where we want to put our money."

But suggesting he was open to reform he said the current system did not "really work for students" or universities. "So of course, we’re going to have to look at that," he said, without committing to a specific approach.

The opposition leader also declined to stand by his promise to raise taxes on teh top five per cent of earners.

After cementing his position at the top of Labour and taking control of the party's executive, Sir Keir has jettisoned many of his leadership election pledges.

The party leader has not in practice campaigned on pledges he made about tax, free movement, and public ownership of utilities, among other accusations of broken promises.

Responding to Sir Keir’s comments, spokesperson for left-wing campaign group Momentum said: “Our country faces huge challenges, from the cost-of-living crisis to the existential threat of climate breakdown. The status quo is failing millions of people - and socialist solutions like public ownership and raising the minimum wage enjoy widespread support amongst the British public.

“But the truth is that the Starmer leadership is avoiding facing these challenges in favour of a reheated and deeply unpopular Blairism. Whether it’s abandoning transport workers fighting for their livelihoods, or offering a windfall tax less ambitious than that of the Tories, Starmer’s tepid, unprincipled approach will neither tackle today’s challenges, nor invigorate a winning electoral coalition.”

Labour has enjoyed a variable but persistent lead over the Conservatives since last year, with Boris Johnson’s personal popularity and the cost of living crisis appearing to drag down the Tory vote share.

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