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How Keir Starmer’s New Labour ‘on steroids’ could change the face of Britain


Keir Starmer has proudly boasted he is on track to be PM in the wake of local elections.

And, with Labour consistently recording double-digit poll leads, attention has been turning to what a government under Sir Keir might do.

The party has so far been carefully avoiding setting out many policy details, with senior figures arguing that the Tories would merely steal the best ideas.

But the shape of some key plans are emerging, with Sir Keir admitting that many things are ‘going into the mix’.

He has argued that the party must be New Labour ‘on steroids’ to transform the country. 

Keir Starmer has argued that his government must be New Labour 'on steroids' to transform the country

Keir Starmer has argued that his government must be New Labour ‘on steroids’ to transform the country

Closely-watched projections by academics Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher found that Labour would have 298 MPs if Thursday's local election results were replicated - raising the prospect they would need to make concessions to the Lib Dems on voting reform

Closely-watched projections by academics Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher found that Labour would have 298 MPs if Thursday’s local election results were replicated – raising the prospect they would need to make concessions to the Lib Dems on voting reform

Electoral shake-up

Sir Keir confirmed today that he backs giving the vote to millions of EU citizens residing in the UK – who are currently able to take part in only local elections. 

That would extend the general election franchise to 3.4million EU nationals who have lived permanently in the UK and paid tax here for a number of years.

A further 2.6million with ‘pre-settled status’ who have lived here under five years could eventually be included.

But ministers pointed out that expats do not have the right to vote in EU countries’ polls and said the changes would damage the status of British citizenship.

They accused Sir Keir of wanting to ‘drag Britain back into the EU by stealth’ as well as guaranteeing Labour a majority.

Polling guru Professor John Curtice suggested Sir Keir would end up piling up votes in cities where EU nationals frequently live, evicting the Tories from seats such as Uxbridge & South Ruislip where Boris Johnson is MP.  

Tories have accused Sir Keir of wanting to 'drag Britain back into the EU by stealth' with voting reforms as well as guaranteeing Labour a majority

Tories have accused Sir Keir of wanting to ‘drag Britain back into the EU by stealth’ with voting reforms as well as guaranteeing Labour a majority

Labour’s manifesto for the general election will include a long-standing pledge to lower the voting age to 16, adding around 1.4million young people to the electoral roll. That is expected to benefit Labour as it has far stronger support in that age band.  

The voting age for parliamentary elections was lowered to 18 from 21 in 1969, although devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales have reduced it to 16 for local polls.

Meanwhile, Sir Keir has refused to rule out ditching the first-past-the-post system altogether and moving to proportional representation (PR), where people vote for parties rather than candidates.

Supporters of PR say it would ensure that every individual’s vote carries the same weight, rather than rewarding parties whose support is concentrated into Commons constituencies.

However, critics have warned that it would mean fringe parties holding disproportionate power, as they would need to be appeased in order to form a stable government. It could also break the traditional connection between MPs and their constituencies. 

Sir Keir’s allies insist he is not a supporter of PR. But Lib Dems have been hinting they would demand it as the price of propping him up in government if there is a hung parliament.

Workplace rights

Labour sources have been briefing that a ‘new deal for working people’ will be a key part of the manifesto.

That could include a ‘right to switch off’ based on legislation in France, where companies with more than 50 workers have been obliged since 2017 to set out the hours when staff are not supposed to send or answer emails. Italy, Spain, Portugal and Belgium have followed suit.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner told the Financial Times that ‘constant emails and calls outside of work should not be the norm’ because they are ‘harming the work-life balance for many’.

Under Labour’s plans, companies would also be expected to offer flexible working – including working from home and staggered hours – as the default option from the first day of employment, ‘except where it is not reasonably feasible’. 

But business chiefs and Tories have dismissed the proposals as ‘unbelievable’ and ‘bizarre’, warning that they will tie the country up in more red tape.

Four-day week

At the 2019 general election, Labour promised in their manifesto to ‘tackle excessive working hours’ with the introduction of a four-day week for all workers.

They pledged, if Jeremy Corbyn were to become PM, that they would ‘reduce average full-time weekly working hours to 32 across the economy, with no loss of pay’.

The party claimed this would be ‘funded by productivity increases’.

Since taking over from Mr Corbyn, Sir Keir’s stance on a four-day working week has been less clear – although he confirmed last year he was ditching all the party’s promises from 2019.

Yet, as he drafts the next Labour manifesto, backbench MPs have been pressuring the Labour leader to again pick up the four-day week proposal.

In October, Bootle MP Peter Dowd – a staunch supporter of a four-day week – introduced his Working Time Regulations (Amendment) Bill to the House of Commons.

He told MPs: ‘Long working hours and low wages is no way to live.’

Nottingham East MP Nadia Whittome has also recently called for a four-day week to be introduced across the public sector.

She argued that she would rather be operated on by a ‘well-rested’ doctor who had enjoyed a three-day weekend.

‘After all, there’s so much more to life than work, and we’d all be better off in a society that recognises this,’ she added.

Ban on smoking

Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting is exploring plans to introduce a New Zealand-style ban on smoking to Britain.

He has revealed Labour will consult on the measure and insisted there is an ‘appetite’ among the public to take action on smoking rates, with a ban being ‘desirable’.

In what is thought to be the first such legislation in the world, New Zealand is set to make it illegal for anyone born after 2008 to be sold tobacco.

This will amount to an annually rising legal smoking age, which is aimed at preventing the country’s next generation from ever taking up smoking.

Mr Streeting has hailed Labour’s consultation on phasing out the sale of cigarettes in Britain as part of ‘fresh radical thinking’ to ease pressures on the NHS.

Labour's shadow health secretary Wes Streeting is exploring plans to introduce a New Zealand-style ban on smoking to Britain

Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting is exploring plans to introduce a New Zealand-style ban on smoking to Britain

‘The question for me on the New Zealand-style smoking ban isn’t whether it’s desirable,’ the shadow health secretary said this month.

‘Because I think in policy terms, and in terms of public opinion, interestingly, I think there is an appetite and a policy driver there to do it

‘In practice, is it going to work? Because it would be a great headline, and certainly a great signal of intent from the Labour Party.

‘But as with everything else, not just in terms of money, but whether we can actually deliver in practice, we are stress testing all of the potential policies we might put in our manifesto against how much would it cost, can we pay for it, and then can we deliver it, is it going to work?’



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