‘It’s confidential’: Shadow minister refuses to say what Labour stands for

Jonathan Ashworth says discussions have taken place at shadow cabinet level but that they are ‘confidential’

Shadow minister refuses to say what Labour stands for

A Labour shadow minister has said he cannot reveal his party's policy platform or values because they are currently subject to "confidential" discussions.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said discussions had taken place with Keir Starmer at shadow cabinet level about what the party wanted to do in government – amid criticism that it has few concrete policies.

But asked on ITV's Good Morning Britain programme about the outcome of those discussions and "what does the Labour Party now stand for?", the shadow health secretary said:

"They're confidential meetings. The Labour Party understands that we have got to speak to the British people about their priorities, and their interests, and their concerns.

"We're launching a big policy review which we're going to take to the country and we're going to engage the country in a discussion and a debate and we're going to listen to the country about what it is they want, how it is they want the country to change."

Labour sources said Mr Ashworth had been trying to incidate that shadow cabinet discussions were confidential, not that the party’s policies were.

Asked again about his claim of confidentiality, Mr Ashworth said: “I was talking about the particular meeting. But we are going to be having a big policy review with the country.

“And of course the meetings aren’t confidential, that was more of a throwaway comment, but we’re having big policy review with the country and you’ll see Labour coming out with exciting ideas.” He did not however reveal any policies.

Sir Keir’s party has been criticised for allegedly having too few policies, and for apparently trying to calibrate its approach to the electorate based on polling, consultants, and focus groups.

Distinguished elections expect John Curtice warned this week that the party had been “inviting people to vote for a vacuum”.

Asked about policies Mr Ashworth said "we can do much better than we're doing at the moment" on schools, healthy and the environment, but declined to get into specifics.

They’re confidential meetings. The Labour Party understands that we have got to speak to the British people about their priorities, and their interests, and their concerns.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth

During the Labour leadership election Sir Keir said the 2017 general election manifesto drawn up under Jeremy Corbyn was the party's "foundational document" for policy going forwards.

But since becoming leader he has done little to argue for the platform. This week he said the party's policies would be completely overhauled, having appointed MP Anneliese Dodds chair a new policy review.

In February this year Sir Keir vowed to be as bold as Labour was in 1945, when it built British post-war social democracy by nationalising swathes of industry after the Second World War.

Sir Keir matched his rhetorical commitment with a promise of 100,000 start-up loans for small businesses and a new "British Recovery Bond", which would be similar to the already existing NS&I bond.

Labour currently trails the Conservatives in the polls by around 10 points, with Sir Keir’s leadership ratings now lower than his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn’s at the same point in his leadership.

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