16 May 2024

Do Keir’s six steps mark the end of the five missions?

Keir Starmer is this morning unveiling his six 'first steps for change'. What are the steps, why are they being launched today and why in Essex? We explore.

Joshua Kaile

This morning the great and the good of the Labour Party are being marched over to Essex to hear the Labour Party leader unveil his six ‘first steps for change’.

“But what about the five missions?!”, I hear you cry?

As much as any political campaigner hopes (and expects at their peril) for their message to be digested, the truth is that you have to keep finding ways to get the electorate to understand what it is you stand for and what you will deliver in government.

Keir has been consistent about setting out his broad ‘five missions for government’ that outlines what he and a future Labour government will set out to achieve. And as a former Labour Political Advisor I can assure you it’s not just a slogan, everything the party does is centred in this framing and all the talks around transitioning to government have these at the forefront.

Keir’s five missions set the broad direction for travel, whereas the six new steps show the immediate change Labour hopes to deliver in a first term of a government. 

The missions and steps broadly align, although the one new addition is that Labour will “Launch a new Border Security Command”. I’m sure we will hear more shortly in terms of what this will look like in practice, but certainly it’s a clear attempt to reassure the public that Labour will not be a soft touch on immigration. It’s Labour’s answer to the Tories controversial, much delayed and expensive ‘small boats’ policy.

So if that’s what the steps are, why are they being launched today and why in Essex?

Well, the fact is that the only person who has control of when the next general election will be, is Rishi Sunak. Although he’s said it will likely be in the second half of the year, and many are speculating it will be in October/November, it could be called at any time up until the 28th January 2025.

The Labour leadership, which has enjoyed opinion poll leads of 20+ points for around two  years is not content to simply sit back and wait. The PM has the control, yet today is an example of where Labour will attempt to grasp any control it can to convince the public that it is they who can deliver positive change for the British public.

During my time working for the Party, I heard many claim that Labour wasn’t clear about what changes it would make in power – an accusation that is often made to whichever party is in opposition. Days like today are a way to for Labour to clearly outline its positive programme for change.

Promising to cut NHS waiting times; recruiting 6,500 new teachers; establishing a publicly owned ‘Great British Energy’s company – these are bold offers that are popular with the British public. As is delivering economic stability after years of chaos, most notably Liz Truss’ disastrous mini budget. Moreover, reducing antisocial behaviour is an issue that often comes up on the doorstep when speaking to people up and down the country.

These six steps for change are something every person can relate to, and Labour hopes will be what they remember when they enter the polling stations.

As for why Keir is unveiling his steps in Essex, well it’s a sign that there is no longer any part of the country that Labour feels it can’t win seats.

There are currently 18 MPs in Essex and all 18 are Conservative. But back in 1997 when Labour last won power from the Conservatives they held seats in Basildon, Braintree, Castle Point, Harlow, Harwich and Thurrock. Tony Blair had found a way to connect to parts of the country that previous Labour leaders had struggled to. Much has been made of the attempt to woo ‘white van man’ – although a rather crude and simplistic description of what the party did, it remains a fact that New Labour did connect to voters across Essex and earned their trust and their votes. 

If Labour can get Keir’s steps to be as remotely well understood and popular as the 1997 pledge card, they will be delighted. Doing so will see them well on the road to No.10. Downing Street.

To conclude, the six steps are an accompaniment to the five missions, an indication of the first things Keir seeks to improve across the UK. And this won’t be the last time you hear of them, for they will be repeated over and over until the general election polls have closed. If you were in any doubt, the informal election campaign has well and truly begun now.

Josh Kaile, Former Labour adviser

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