Keir Starmer launches ‘Change’ – Labour’s general election manifesto

Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labour Party, speaking at the Labour Party manifesto launch, Manchester

Thank you, thank you very much. Thank you, Ange, for your introduction, for everything that you’re doing, I think I’m taking your bus this afternoon. Thank you, Richard, for your words. Thank you, Daniel, for reminding us why we’re doing what we’re doing. 

Nathaniel, I’ve heard your story before, but every single time it gets to me and I’m sure gets to every single person that listens to what you say, and I’m humbled by your determination to make sure that things are better for those in the next generation. 

And Holly, that was fantastic. Holly is 18-years-old. Anybody who has stood on a stage like this knows how hard it is, for all of us to stand up here. That’s the first time Holly has done anything like this in her life. Fantastic, Holly. And taken together, isn’t this clear evidence of a changed Labour Party, and clear evidence of the change we need for our country. 

We gave up on being a party of protest five years ago. We want to be a party of power. That’s not in the script, but that is part of the change.

And Holly, can I also say at the start of this, that this party respects and will never forget the contribution that your generation made during the pandemic. Thank you so much.

And thank you all for coming to Manchester. Thank you for all the hard work that’s gone into this campaign so far, into this project. Four-and-a-half years of work changing our party to put it back in the service of working people.

And now – the next step, the most important step, changing Britain. Rebuilding our country. So that it too serves the interests of working people.  

And what a place to launch our plan to do so. The home of the Co-operative Group. An organisation that has long believed, as we do, that the pursuit of social justice and economic growth must go hand-in-hand.

A day where I am proud – in this place, in this city – to launch Labour’s general election manifesto. A manifesto for wealth creation. A plan to change Britain.

Because today we can turn the page. Today we can lay a new foundation of stability. And on that foundation we can start to rebuild Britain. A Britain renewed by an old argument – that we serve working people, as their ambition drives our country forward. 

Because there is so much potential in this country. So much possibility if we stand together as four nations, and back the ambition people have for their family and their community.

I see it everywhere I go. Potential held back. I spoke to Will, he’s a fireman in Milton Keynes. He works really hard. What he wants, his dream, is to own his own home. A roof over his head that he can call his own. As well as a firefighter, he’s got two other jobs, but he can’t afford a mortgage – his dream will not be realised. That’s the price he’s paying.

I went to Alder Hey Hospital, not far from here. It is a brilliant children’s hospital, absolutely brilliant. And the day I went in, I went to the ward where they were doing operations on 0 to 2-year-old children, heart operations. It’s incredible to just see what they do, the courage of the individuals in there. Heart surgery – the brilliance of the NHS staff. I found that totally humbling, completely uplifting. Until I found out that at Alder Hey Hospital, the commonest cause for admission for operations for 6-to-10-year olds is children going there to have their teeth taken out, because they are decaying. That is the price that they are paying. 

So just imagine, imagine if instead – a Labour Government gives Will and Daniel the affordable homes that they need. Imagine, if instead – a Labour Government tackles the rot of tooth decay. Imagine what those nurses and doctors could do – with a Labour Government on their side.

Now don’t get me wrong. These challenges don’t disappear overnight if Labour wins. We don’t have a magic wand. But what we do have – what this manifesto represents, is a credible long-term plan. A plan built on stable foundations, with clear first steps, tough spending rules that will keep taxes and inflation low. NHS waiting times cut – with 40,000 extra appointments every week. A Border Security Command to smash the criminal smuggling gangs. Great British Energy to cut bills in your home for good, more police in your town, cracking down on antisocial behaviour, and 6,500 new teachers in your school – giving your children the start in life that they deserve.

But also, a plan that is much more than a list of policies. A plan for change, for growth, for giving our children their future back.

A chance to refocus politics on the things that matter to your family. The era of sticking plaster politics, the chaos and division, replaced by a government back in the service of you and your family.

And make no mistake – that is the cause of this changed Labour Party and we have written that argument through every word of this manifesto, because it’s urgent.

Britain has lost its balance. It is too hard for working people to get on. Opportunity is not spread evenly enough and too many communities are not just locked out of the wealth that we create, they are disregarded as sources of dynamism in the first place. 

Ignored by the toxic idea that economic growth is something the few hand down to the many. Today, we turn the page on that, forever.

Because that idea is part of the story of the past 14 years, part of everything they put you through.

When they crashed the pound to give tax cuts to the richest 1%. When they decimated your public services because of a mess made by banks. When they failed to invest in clean British energy, we were exposed when Putin invaded Ukraine. 

That idea was there, a Tory inability to face the future, rather than change, reform and strengthen government, so that it can intervene, in partnership with business, to give you and your family stability in this insecure world.

It doesn’t matter how many new policies the Tories throw at the wall, hoping that some of them will stick. None of them face up to the reality of this future. But mark my words – this changed Labour Party will.  

We have a plan in this manifesto. A total change of direction. Laser-focused on our cause: stability, growth, investment and reform. A government back in the service of your family, ready to change Britain.

We will restore the foundations of good government. National security, border security, economic security. We will make new choices to reform our economy and public services, hard choices, choices ducked for years.

These choices will be fully-funded and fully-costed. That is non-negotiable, you cannot play fast and loose with the public finances. We have lived through the damage that this does. The Government we have now played fast and loose with the finances, and working people paid the price.

Just after Liz Truss’ mini-budget, I went to Wolverhampton a week or so afterwards. And I met there a couple, they had a 3-year-old child, they had decided they want a second child. They had chosen a new home that was big enough to accommodate their new family. They got a mortgage offer that they could afford. Liz Truss crashed the economy, their mortgage offer went through the roof, they couldn’t afford it, they pulled out, they couldn’t move to their new home, they felt they were held back. But they also took the decision that they could no longer afford to have a second child. And they will live with that for the rest of their lives. That’s the price that they’re paying.

So I make no apologies for being careful with working peoples’ money, and no apologies for ruling out tax rises on working people. And this isn’t just the election, don’t think it’s just politics, this is an issue of conviction. I don’t believe it’s fair to raise taxes on working people when they’re already paying this much, particularly in a cost-of-living crisis.  

So let me spell it out. We will not raise income tax. We will not raise National Insurance. We will not raise VAT. That is a manifesto commitment.  

And another thing. Because there may be some people here today who say: where’s the surprise? Where’s the rabbit out of the hat? To which I say, if you want politics as pantomime, I hear Clacton is nice this time of year!

But seriously, we have to come to terms with this. Britain needs stability, not more chaos. I set out our long-term plan in this room 18 months ago, and that plan stands because it is the right plan.

We did the work properly. Our responsibility to give a clear direction to businesses, communities, everyone invested in Britain’s future. 

We took that seriously. 

So yes, those five national missions: higher growth, safer streets, cleaner energy, more opportunity, the NHS back on its feet – they remain at the core of this manifesto.  

But if they are to offer hope and clarity through these times. If they are to show, despite the hard road, the light of the certain destination, then we must keep to that road, no matter the short-term ebbs and flows of politics. Even in a campaign. 

That’s what mission-driven government means. A chance to stop us bobbing along until the next crisis blows us off course, and instead make sure we can keep going through the storm. Stability over chaos. Long-term over short-term. An end to the desperate era of gestures and gimmicks, and a return to the serious business of rebuilding our country.

And on that foundation of stability, we start to rebuild. A rebuilding that must begin, first and foremost, with new choices on economic growth. That is the mandate we seek from Britain at this election, a mandate for economic growth.

Because the way we create wealth in this country is broken. It leaves far too many people feeling insecure, people who are working hard and doing the right thing.

So we will reform it, and we will keep on reforming it, until it delivers for them. Wealth creation is our number one priority. Growth is our core business. The only route to improving the prosperity of our country and the living standards of working people. And that’s why we made it our first national mission in government.

But we must change our approach so that it comes from every community. Not just shared with every community, redistribution can’t be a one-word plan for our poorest towns and regions. 

No, we need to give them the tools they need, back their pride and potential. Growth for every community, growth from every community, that is the path to national renewal.   

And now, some people say that how you grow the economy is not a central question. That it’s not about how you create wealth, but how you tax it, how you spend it, how you slice the cake, that’s all that matters.

So let me be crystal clear, this manifesto is a total rejection of that argument. Because if you transform the nature of the jobs market, if you transform the infrastructure that supports investment in our economy, if you reform the planning regime – start to unlock the potential of billions upon billions of pounds worth of projects that are ready to go, held up by the blockers of aspiration – then clearly that does so much more for our long-term growth prospects.

And the same is true of public services. If we grew the economy at anything like the rate of the last Labour Government, we’d have tens of billions of pounds worth of investment for our public services every year.

So if you take nothing else away from today, let it be this. This changed Labour Party has a plan for growth: we are pro-business and pro-worker. The party of wealth creation. 

We will reform the planning rules – a choice ignored for 14 years – and build the homes and infrastructure you need. We will level up your rights at work – a choice ignored for 14 years – and raise your wages and your security. We will create a new industrial strategy – a choice ignored for 14 years. And we will back it with a national wealth fund – invest in clean steel, new ports, gigafactories. And we will create 650,000 new jobs for communities like yours, relight the fires of renewal across all four of our great nations.

You can choose a different path – you have the power. You can choose to take back control from Westminster. More democracy for your community. New powers over transport, skills, employment. Unlock the pride and potential in every community. That is a different choice you can make.

You can cut your bills for good with a new energy company – funded by a tax on the oil and gas giants: owned by the taxpayer, making money for the taxpayer, powering your home with clean British energy. That is a different choice you can make.

And you can choose to get our NHS back on its feet. End the 8am scramble. Back our NHS staff, get the best technology in their hands, slash waiting lists in your hospital, funded by taking on the non-doms and tax avoiders. That is a different choice you can make.

And I’ll tell you another choice you can make. You can choose to live in a country that believes in and backs its young people, the future of our country.

I am fed up of politicians lecturing young people about their responsibility to our nation, when those politicians fail in their responsibility to the future.

After what young people did during the pandemic, what they gave up for people – let’s be blunt – more at risk than them, that adds insult to injury. 

But more than that, it tears up the unwritten contract, the bonds of respect that hold these four great nations together, the values that make us who we are, the responsibilities we owe to each other. Past, present and future.

My dad was a tool-maker, he worked in a factory. My mum was a nurse. We didn’t have a lot when we were growing up, and, like millions of working-class children now, I grew up in a cost-of-living crisis.

I know what it feels like to be embarrassed to bring your mates home because the carpet is threadbare and the windows cracked. I was actually responsible for that because I didn’t put the football through it! But we didn’t have the money to fix it. Or to be honest – the time and energy. Economic insecurity drains you of that as well.

But look, what always comforted my parents was the idea that, in the end, Britain would give their children a fair chance.

The old saying, the story we still tell our children – “work hard and you can achieve anything” – that meant something.

My parents believed in that. But the question now, after 14 years, is – do we?

Do kids like those in Somers Town – a very poor part of my constituency, one of the poorest parts of Europe – do they look out of their window, to the glittering success of London 300 yards and another world away, and believe that success could belong to them?

Do parents here in Manchester – or in Glasgow, Cardiff, Plymouth, Sunderland, Sussex, Stoke-on-Trent – do they believe, with the certainty that they deserve, that the future will be better for their children?

Because in the Britain I want to leave to my children, they do.

And we can build it. We can restore the dream of home ownership to 1.5 million families. We can create 3,000 new nurseries to give them the best start in life. We can roll out a new generation of technical excellence colleges, a world-class vocational education respected by all, grounding young aspiration in the soil of their community.

We can guarantee, for every young person, a job placement or apprenticeship when they are out of work. We can invest in their mental health, their physical health, their dental health. We can reform the curriculum to prepare them for their world. 

We can create new youth hubs and give them something to do in their community. Raise their wages if they’re at work, give them the power of the vote, tackle injustice with a new Race Equality Act and with our mission on clean power we can lead the way on climate, finally show our responsibility to their future.

A fairer, healthier, a more secure Britain, at the service of working people, with growth from every community. A Britain ready to restore that promise. 

The bond that reaches through the generations and says – this country will be better for your children.

That is the change on offer on 4 July. 

That is our plan and I invite you all to join our mission to stop the chaos, turn the page and start to rebuild our country.

Thank you so much.