Starmer promises to ‘take back control’ in new year speech

The Labour leader said his party would not be able to get its ‘big government chequebook’ out if it wins the next election.

05 January 2023

Sir Keir Starmer signalled that Labour would become the party of “Take Back Control” as he promised to turn it from a “slogan to a solution” that would deliver a new politics for Britain.

In a major speech on Thursday, only a short distance from where Rishi Sunak delivered his own vision for the country on Wednesday, the Labour leader warned that his party would not get be able to get its “big government chequebook” out if it wins the next election.

He also accused Rishi Sunak of offering the country only “more promises, more platitudes” as he hit out at “sticking plaster politics” in a new year address in east London.

“We will embrace the Take Back Control message but we’ll turn it from a slogan to a solution. From a catchphrase into change. We will spread control out of Westminster,” he said, in a reference to the famous phrase from the Brexit campaign.

“Devolve new powers over employment support, transport, energy, climate change, housing, culture, childcare provision and how councils run their finances. And we’ll give communities a new right to request powers which go beyond this.

“All this will be in a new Take Back Control Bill – a centrepiece of our first King’s speech. A Bill that will deliver on the demand for a new Britain. A new approach to politics and democracy. A new approach to growth and our economy.”

Flanked by party members, Sir Keir told the audience in Stratford: “Of course, investment is required – I can see the damage the Tories have done to our public services as plainly as anyone else.

“But we won’t be able to spend our way out of their mess – it’s not as simple as that.

“There is no substitute for a robust, private sector, creating wealth in every community,” he told the audience.

His first speech of 2023 comes as the Government grapples with severe pressures in the NHS and ongoing strike action, as households continue to struggle with cost-of-living challenges.

Rishi Sunak visit to Plexal
Rishi Sunak had been accused of lacking detail in his speech on Wednesday (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Sunak was accused of being light on detail in his own speech in Stratford, in which he promised to halve inflation, deal with NHS waiting lists, and tackle small boat crossings in the Channel.

Sir Keir told the audience that Mr Sunak had only offered “commentary without solutions”.

“More promises, more platitudes. No ambition to take us forward. No sense of what the country needs. Thirteen years of nothing but sticking plaster politics.”

The Labour leader, whose party would abolish and replace the House of Lords if it wins the next election and replace it with a regionally elected chamber, said that the country needs a new approach to politics and the economy.

Sir Keir said: “This year, let’s imagine instead, what we can achieve if we match the ambition of the British people.

“That’s why I say Britain needs a completely new way of governing.

“You can’t overstate how much a short-term mindset dominates Westminster, and, from there, how it infects all the institutions which try, and fail, to run Britain from the centre.”

“I call it sticking plaster politics,” he said.

“The long-term cure, that always eludes us.”

On the NHS, the Labour leader said that crises affecting the country have each been “an iceberg on the horizon”.

His own party, Sir Keir also said, had changed too under his leadership.

To applause, he said: “People know we care, they always know the Labour party cares and they can now see a party that is both competent and compassionate.”

Introducing her party leader on Thursday, the shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves asked the audience: “Are you and your family better off than you were 13 years ago?

“Does anything in Britain work today better than it did 13 years ago?”

She said that the country faced the choice of following the path of “managed decline” under the Conservatives, or “we can change course, to build a greener, fairer, and more dynamic Britain”.

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