Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Keir Starmer promises to take back control

Keir Starmer (Credit: Getty Images)

Keir Starmer’s new year speech was better than Rishi Sunak’s. It’s easier to give a speech about fixing problems when you’re in opposition and someone else has caused them. But it was just more interesting than what the Prime Minister had to say yesterday. There was the politically audacious decision to pick up Vote Leave’s ‘take back control’ mantra, not just as a slogan but also in the form of a ‘Take Back Control Bill’ which will devolve new powers to local communities and give them the right to request more authority from central government. There was a rejection of the old Labour way of doing things: Starmer said he wouldn’t be get out the ‘big government chequebook’, for instance, and instead advocated a ‘partnership model’ between government and the private sector. And there was – finally – a sense that Starmer is a bit more ambitious than just winning power to fix things for a few years: he talked about a plan for a ‘decade of national renewal’. 

The ‘take back control’ line allowed Starmer to set out policy, but also to appeal to the Brexit voters who disagreed with him in the 2016 campaign and turned to the Tories at the 2019 election. He said: ‘But as I went around the country, campaigning for Remain, I couldn’t disagree with the basic case so many Leave voters made to me. People who wanted public services they could rely on. High streets they could be proud of. Opportunities for the next generation. And all of this in their town or city. It was the same in the Scottish referendum in 2014 – many of those who voted ‘Yes’ did so for similar reasons. And it’s not an unreasonable demand. It’s not unreasonable for us to recognise the desire for communities to stand on their own feet.

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