In the run up to Labour Party Conference, Trafalgar Strategy will be diving into Labour’s policy process and the pledges it is making to win over voters ahead of the next election
In the third instalment of our series, we share our guide to Labour’s five missions.
Every political party is a fan of making pledges during an election campaign. Sometimes, these are as simple as a one line slogan. Boris Johnson ran an entire election with not much more than the simple pledge that he would “Get Brexit Done”. Ed Miliband on the other hand had his less successful and considerably more lengthy “Ed-stone”.
From a communications perspective, the technique of using pledges works quite well. It gives a political party an easy way of pointing to its priorities or vision whilst keeping candidates and campaigners on message. But of course, these pledges also tell you a lot about what a future government will try to achieve.
Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party unveiled his vision earlier this year. Not content with the idea of mere pledges, Starmer has unveiled a series of five “missions” which (he says) are essential to addressing the long-term challenges facing Britain. So what are they?
Secure the highest sustained growth in the G7, with good jobs and productivity growth in every part of the country making everyone, not just a few, better off.
Make Britain a clean energy superpower to create jobs, cut bills and boost energy security with zero-carbon electricity by 2030, accelerating to net zero.
Build an NHS fit for the future by reforming health and care services to speed up treatment, harnessing life sciences and technology to reduce preventable illness, and cutting health inequalities.
Make Britain’s streets safe by reforming the police and justice system, to prevent crime, tackle violence against women, and stop criminals getting away without punishment.
Break down the barriers to opportunity at every stage, for every child, by reforming the childcare and education systems, raising standards everywhere, and preparing young people for work and life.
The risk for Labour is that voters no longer believe a word any politician tells them. And while the five missions are all sensible, voters will spot they are also fiendishly complex. Yes, Labour aren’t the Tories, but unless Keir Starmer comes to the table with solutions, the same challenge will remain: how to fix a broken system that is letting too many people down.
There is some recognition of this challenge in how Labour has framed its missions; talking about a move away from short-term “sticking plaster” politics and focussing on achieving complex, interconnected goals. They also argue that to effectively deliver on these missions will require a change in how the government works.
There are already signs that Labour is preparing for this. Pat McFadden, a former minister under the Blair and Brown governments and political secretary to Blair, became Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in Starmer’s recent reshuffle. And Sue Gray, Starmer’s Chief of Staff, has been tasked with working out plans for reforming Whitehall - a task that usually flows through the Cabinet Office.
In terms of how this means a Labour government would work, they say it will mean:
Departments must work collaboratively to achieve shared missions.
Emphasis should be on real-world impact and citizens' needs.
Greater flexibility and innovation in governance approaches.
Devolving decision-making away from Westminster to local communities.
Increased government accountability through transparency and reporting.
Long-term, preventative approaches to solving challenges.
However, in the middle of Five Missions briefing is a telling line. Labour admit that the first mission is to grow the economy and that all the other missions feed into that. Maybe this is an admission Liz Truss was right after all…
OK, probably not completely. But it certainly means the Treasury will retain its power in a future Labour government, regardless of whether it is “mission” driven or not.