Keir Starmer faces a huge 2023
Liz Truss famously – and prophetically – pledged to “hit the ground from day one” when she went to the last ballot in last year’s first Tory leadership election.
Keir Starmer hopes to be more successful than the former prime minister, kicking off the political year with a major speech on Thursday.
“The idea is to start acting before the local elections in May,” a senior adviser to the Labor leader told HuffPost UK.
With a general election expected in 2024, party sources say Starmer wants to use his speech – and the next 12 months – to convince voters that Labor is offering “hope and change” after 12 years of failure and the fall of the Tories.
Party insiders were therefore delighted that Sunak chose to use his New Year’s message to warn of the “challenges” facing the country in the coming months.
“Keir was making changes and Rishi was doing terrible things and it’s going to get worse, which was very helpful to us in framing,” says one.
Another Labor insider adds: “We have two tasks in 2023 – to show the public that the Tory-managed collapse of Britain is not inevitable, it is ideological and that the scarcity and thinness of what Rishi Sunak is doing will do nothing to arrest the fact that they have no answers to the great questions of our time.
“Basically, they are the problem and we are the solution.”
To that end, the May elections – with 230 English councils up for grabs – will be a useful starting point for the Starmer project.
The huge profits from the job will provide further evidence that the polls suggesting Starmer is on track to reach number 10 are accurate.
However, a Tory resurgence would be a major blow to the Labor leader and would lend weight to the theory that Sunak’s approach to indecision appeals to undecided voters put off by the chaos of Truss and Boris Johnson.
The stakes couldn’t be higher – and explains why the Labor Party machine is determined not to leave anything to chance.
“We will be fine-tuning the target seat lists ahead of the general election, which will mean lots of big polls,” one party source said.
“We also need to build on Keir’s speech at the party conference to show that we are going to make the changes that people have been calling for.”
The grim economic backdrop means that anyone hoping the incoming Labor government will inevitably mean more investment in things like schools and the NHS is likely to be disappointed.
HuffPost UK has learned that shadow cabinet members are encouraged to come up with ideas on how to improve the country without spending money.
One source said: “We have to be honest and say we cannot undo all the damage done by the Tories overnight. Instead, it will be a good old Labor project to repair and rebuild the country.
“There are many ways in which massive reform can be brought about meaningfully just through legislation, without spending a dime. These are things that can be delivered very early in a Labor government.
“We can fix public finances and make huge changes, no problem. This is an opportunity for us.”