Keir Starmer has admitted he is already planning his second term in government as he set out his five “national missions” which will form the building blocks of Labour’s next election manifesto.
The Labour leader said he was “not going to shy away” from saying that after 13 years of the Conservatives it would take time to “fix the fundamentals” of the country, including the economy and public services.
In a major speech in Manchester on Thursday, Starmer promised that a new Labour government would deliver the highest sustained growth in the G7 group of wealthy nations by the end of its first term, but there was little detail on how he would do that.
“I’m fighting for every single vote and we’ve got a long, long way to go. But I’m also honest enough to say that some of these issues are not going to be fixed within five years; they’re longer-term than that,” he told his audience of Labour MPs and members.
“Some of these issues are longer term, that’s why we’ve said we’re going to have decade of national renewal. I do know we’ve got a long, long way to go …. But at the same time I’m not going to shy away from fact that after the damage that has been done in the last 13 years it is going to take time to fix the fundamentals.”
The Labour leader said people should “judge us on our plan” as he set out his mission to boost growth – describing it as “the oxygen for our ambitions” – right across the country and delivered through providing secure, well-paid jobs.
Yet despite Brexit hitting economic growth by billions of pounds since 2016, Starmer urged people not to “fixate laser-like” on it as the only reason for the sluggish economy, although he did say a Labour government would “fix” some of the problems with the deal.
“The lack of growth in our economy can’t simply be put down to Brexit. We’ve had a problem with growth in our economy since about 2010. If we get fixated on Brexit as the only issue when it comes to growth, we would be making a big mistake,” he told the Guardian after the speech.
“I’m not pretending we don’t need to improve the deal that we’ve got with the EU. I do think the Brexit deal needs to be improved. It’s obviously not working very well. It wasn’t oven baked, or even half baked. It’s not just fixing the protocol in Northern Ireland, we have to have a closer trading relationship more generally.”
In his speech, Starmer he would have a “single-minded” approach to winning the next election, with the party becoming more like a top sports team pursuing victory.
“All around the world, countries are gearing up for an almighty race for the opportunities of tomorrow,” he said. “Britain must be on the start line – not back in the changing room tying its laces.”
He said the country needed a “serious plan” to provide more stability after years of Tory government “blowing with the wind” rather than fixing deep-rooted problems. “We lurch from crisis to crisis. Always reacting, always behind the curve. A sticking plaster, never a cure,” he said.
“I look at what some Tories are saying at the moment and I can’t believe they need to learn this lesson again. That they still don’t understand that chaos has a cost. The noises-off you hear from them are a primal scream. The last gasp of a party caught between a rock of stagnation and the hard place of its economic recklessness.”
Yet Starmer risks further riling the left of his party by stressing that he is ready to draw on investment and expertise from both the public and private sectors to “get the job done”.
However, he added: “There is a massive role for the private sector in mission-driven government but if the aspiration is merely to replace the public sector while extracting a rent to privatise the profits, while socialising the risk, that takes us nowhere.”
Starmer’s “missions” cover five broad themes: the economy, the NHS, crime, the climate crisis and education. They will be long-term objectives, rather than consumer pledges, but will be “measurable” so voters can check against performance.
But there was scant detail in the speech, with Starmer and his shadow cabinet ministers working with experts to flesh out their plans in the coming months, and few indications of the timetable for when his “missions” would be delivered.
Ahead of the May local elections, Labour will set out more detail on how it would reform the police and justice system to prevent crime, tackle violence against women, and stop criminals getting away without punishment.
It will then flesh out how a Labour government would make Britain a clean energy superpower, build an NHS “fit for the future” and break down the barriers to opportunity for all children by reforming the systems and better equipping them for the workplace.
Earlier, Starmer had defended dropping key pledges made during his Labour leadership bid, saying the 10 promises he made during the 2020 race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn had been adapted given unprecedented global events, rather than been abandoned.
He insisted they remained “important statements of value and principle” but refused to confirm he stood by several of them, including public ownership of utilities and rail services and the abolition of university tuition fees, amid criticism from the left.