Keir Starmer launches Labour’s first steps for change in Thurrock

Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Labour Party, launching Labour’s first steps for change in Thurrock, said:

Thank you all for that welcome. I don’t know about you. But I found those stories, whether it’s on the screens on the videos or in person here, incredibly compelling and incredibly moving. Each of them stories about change.

And Nathaniel, I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know how you’re able to hold yourself together with that poise and with that dignity, and to cling on to that hope for other people. It’s really inspirational for all of us, thank you for coming. What Nathaniel didn’t tell you, he ran the marathon, playing a trombone. He’s a music teacher. 

And Rob, thank you for your story, your contribution about housing, and the importance of a home, the basic security. A base camp from where people can build their lives, it makes such a difference. It certainly did for me. 

And Haruna yours is a story about change. To change from one political party to another is a very big thing to do, it’s about change.

We changed the Labour Party to put it back in the service of working people. And what we seek, humbly, is the opportunity to change the country, to put the country back in the service of working people.

Now I’m not going to give you gimmicks. There’s no quick fix to the mess the Tories have made of this country. But this changed Labour Party with a plan to take us forward. 

I have ambition for this country and like all ambition, that starts with first steps. 

First steps towards higher growth, an NHS back on its feet, secure borders, cheaper bills, safer streets, and opportunities for your children. 

Because we’ve all had enough, the whole country has had enough, of 14 years of failure, spinning round and round going in circles. Chaos of division, feeding chaos for division. And that has a cost, a human cost. 

Will is a fireman. He lives in Milton Keynes, and I had a coffee with him not so long ago. He has a dream, an aspiration if you like. It’s not unusual. It’s not unreasonable. He wants his own his own house, his own roof over his head. He’s not just a fireman, he’s got two additional jobs but he still can’t afford it because of the damage that’s been done under this government. He’s at his wits end. He said to me ‘what else can I do?’, ‘I can’t afford it because of what the government has done’. He is paying the price.

And he’s not the only one. Alder Hey Hospital is a children’s hospital in Liverpool, it is brilliant. Some of your will perhaps have been there, have heard about it, it’s fantastic. 

I went to that hospital, it’s designed for children, the way they’ve set out the wards is fantastic. The ward I went onto was the ward where they do heart operations, for 0-2 year-old children. This is incredible, just to go into that ward. And to see tiny children, babies having heart operations. The courage of these tiny beings. A brilliant NHS team working with them – absolutely brilliant team – doing operations you would not think are possible. I found that really humbling, I found it uplifting, affirming, even. A real reminder of what we can do at our best. 

But I came away from that hospital also feeling really angry, when I found out that the single biggest cause of children going into that hospital between the ages of 6-10 is to have their rotting teeth taken out. Literally more children going to that hospital to have their teeth taken out because they’re decaying Than any other operation. 

They are paying a very heavy price for what this government has done. That NHS team – that brilliant team – having to spend their time, their expertise, taking rotting teeth out, when it could be prevented. There are so many other examples, we’ve heard them this morning, but they’re across the country. And they tell a bigger story, a deeper story. 

A story about a loss of trust, of hope, of confidence even, to take our country forward. And if we’re serious about rebuilding our country and taking our country forward, we have to rebuild that hope, that trust, and that confidence. 

And you cannot do that with gimmicks, short-term solutions, sticking plasters, where you just put it on problem but it doesn’t fix the problem, it only gets bigger. 

That’s why last year I set out my missions for an incoming Labour government. The big change we need to make to our country, to take it forward, to improve it. To make it a better place. Long-term ambitions. Credible plans, fixing the fundamentals and giving an incoming government a driving sense of purpose about the change we want to bring about. Now this is going to be hard. Sticking plasters is easy, it just doesn’t work. 

But I’ve never shied away from tough decisions. I ran a public service, we changed it, we reformed it. Lots of people said you couldn’t do it, you shouldn’t do it, we had to do it. We pressed on. 

We changed the Labour Party and put it back in the service of working people – country first, party second. 

Today is an important day because all ambitions, particularly ambition to change your country for the better, have to start with first steps. 

These are our first steps. They enable us to look the public in the eye, and to say this is our down payments of change, this is our first shoots of the change that you deserve to see. 

First steps that are ready to go, fully costed and fully funded. 

Step one – economic stability. 

This is the very foundation of economic growth. Tough spending rules, yes. To keep inflation, taxes, and mortgages low. Because if you lose control of the economy, it is working people who will pay the price. 

Liz Truss lost control of the economy and working people paid the price. 

Just about a week after her mini budget, I was in Wolverhampton with a young couple who had a three-year-old child. And they wanted a second child, to build their family. So they identified a new home to buy. They got a provisional mortgage for it, that they could afford. They were excited about the future they were going to build. Liz Truss crashed the economy. Their mortgage offer literally went through the roof, they couldn’t afford it, they had to cancel their plans – no more new home. No more moving on. Stuck. 

But they also made a much more profound decision. They decided they couldn’t afford a second child. And they’re going to live with that decision for the rest of their lives. I’m not prepared to allow an incoming Labour government, ever, to do that kind of damage to working people.

This isn’t just about the past, Rishi Sunak has not learned the lessons. He says he’s going to abolish National Insurance. That is a £46 billion unfunded tax cut. £46 billion. 

That’s why I can hardly I’m saying this, but stability is change, and that’s why it has to be our first step. 

The second step is – cutting NHS waiting times. 

It is impossible to overstate the seriousness of this problem. Nearly eight million operations and appointments needed. Eight million. That means everybody in this room, everybody watching or listening, probably is on the waiting list or knows someone who is on a waiting list. That’s the worst it’s ever been. And we see it the whole time. I see it every time I’m out. 

On Sunday I was travelling from London to Manchester. Now I confess I was on my way to watch Arenal beat Manchester United away, at Old Trafford. 

We pulled into Knutsford service station and I got out, walked in to have a coffee. And a woman recognised me and she called me over, and she said to me, and she showed me, she’s got an ingrowing eyelid. 

It’s red raw, swollen, and causing her a huge amount of pain and discomfort. She said to me ‘I’ve been waiting 18 months for an appointment for her operation, and I’ve just been told I’ve got to wait another 12 months’.

She virtually pleased with me to win the election to do something about it. That’s not usual, there are so many versions of this story – whether it’s knees or hips or whatever the operation may be. That is the price so many people are paying, and that’s why we have to deal with it. 

40,000 operations and appointments, every single week, paid for by cracking down on tax avoiders and the non don tax status. 

Step three – a new Border Security Command. 

Because the government has lost control of our borders. This year alone, 8,000 people have made the perilous journey across the Channel in a small boat. 8,000 – that is a record. 

Now let’s be clear, nobody but nobody, should be making that journey. And it is a test, a test of governments and would be governments, as to how we respond. And there are choices in that response. You can choose a gimmick that won’t fix it or a serious plan that will get to the heart of it. 

And the government has chosen a gimmick, the Rwanda scheme. It cost a fortune, an absolute fortune. To deport less than one per cent of those arriving by small boat. That means of course, that 99 plus per cent will not be removed under the scheme. 

If you don’t think the criminal gangs are saying that to the people that they are exploiting, then you’ve never met a criminal gang. Because those gangs are vile. They’re making huge amounts of money. They’re putting some of the most vulnerable people in the world in boats they shouldn’t be in, and breaching our borders. So, we have to be serious about smashing those gangs and taking them down. 

That’s where the Border Security Command comes in. A new command with new resources and new powers including counterterrorism power. Because we talk about small boats, that’s the language that’s used but if you actually look at the boats that are being used these days, they’re not that small. They’re being made to order. They’re being stored in Europe, they’re being moved up to the north coast of France, and then vulnerable people are being put in them for money by vile gangs. 

Now worked for five years as the chief prosecutor, as Director of Public Prosecutions. I worked with police and law enforcement across Europe to take down criminal gangs that were terrorist gangs. These are sophisticated gangs y the way. And we did it and took them down. 

I will never accept that it’s impossible to take down the vile gangs that bring people in small boats across the Channel and we will smash it. 

Step four – Great British Energy. 

Now the problem here is obvious, it’s the classic example, the textbook example of sticking plaster politics. Because about ten years ago, the Tory government said they would ‘cut the green crap’. Remember that? ‘Cut the green crap’. 

So, they cut investment in clean British power, they banned offshore wind, they scrapped home insulation, and that left us really badly exposed. 

So, when world events changed and Russia invaded Ukraine, we were more exposed than other countries and your bills went up more than they should have done. 

I’m not prepared to let that happen under a Labour government. So, we will set up Great British Energy, harness clean British power, owned by the taxpayer, making money for the taxpayer, investing in the future and keeping bills down for good. 

Step five – cracking down on antisocial behaviour. 

All my working life, when I was chief prosecutor, and when I was a politician, people say to me, Keir, ‘this is low level antisocial behaviour, it’s not that important’. Completely wrong. 

If you feel that you can’t open your door, your front door, at night and go out, if you can’t walk down your own high street, be comfortable and safe in your own community – that is massive. That is a big inhibitor of so many people. It’s not low level, it’s really important.  

That was brought home to me when I was in Stoke at the sixth form college. I was talking to 16 and 17 year olds – these were girls and young women. We were actually talking about something else and they brought up antisocial behaviour. They said to me, they do not feel safe walking down our own high street in broad daylight. That is massive for those young women. They don’t feel safe on their high street, in daylight, because of antisocial behaviour.

That’s what losing control of your streets feels like. So, we’ve got to crack down on antisocial behaviour – 13,000 new neighbourhood officers in your community, with new powers, keeping your streets safe. 

And finally, step six – 6,500 extra teachers. 

Paid for by removing the tax breaks for private schools. Because we have to prepare our children and young people for the work they’re actually going to do, and the lives actually going to live.

And that will require reform, to make sure the skills they get, are taught, are the skills they’re actually going to need in life. It also means we need to concentrate on creativity, on confidence – what a difference that makes – and resilience, that all children and young people need.

But we need to get the basics right. The Prime Minister is very fond of lecturing us that we need maths to age 18. Now given what he’s saying about the £46 billion tax cut that’s unfunded, he’s probably right about himself. 

But the serious point is this, we haven’t got enough maths teachers in our secondary schools for those to age 16. We haven’t got enough maths teachers and other key teachers. That’s shocking.

Now I was the first in my family to go to university, I know the power that education can give us. 

Somers Town is an area in my constituency, some of you know it, some of you probably don’t. It’s between Euston station and Kings Cross. It’s one of the most deprived areas in the country, probably in Europe. 

And the children in the schools in Somers Town can look out of their school’s window, look out at their playground, across to the back of Kings Cross, and see the development of corporations in there. Google is in there and it’s a fantastic facility being put up for Google. The Guardian building is just there. They can see it but they can never imagine that’s where they will work. That’s a few hundred yards but they can’t make that leap. 

I want every child, whatever their background, to think success belongs to them. That they don’t have to change who they are to get on. And this Labour Party, we will fight every day, to give those children a future which is fit for them. 

So, here we are. One card, six steps in your hand, a plan to change the country. 

This is a message that we can take to every doorstep, across the country. 

Every doorstep across the country, and make that argument – decline is not inevitable. Politics can make a difference. 

Britain will have a better future and you can choose it – with Labour. 

Stop the chaos – with Labour. 

Turn the page – with Labour. 

Return politics to service – with Labour. 

And with patience, with determination, with these first steps, we can rebuild our country – with Labour.