Starmer sets out post-pandemic vision of ‘contribution society’ in 11,500-word essay

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has begun a push to spell out his vision for Britain with the release of an essay running to more than 11,500 words.

Ahead of Labour’s annual conference in Brighton later this week, Sir Keir has outlined his view of a “contribution society”.

And, in the lengthy pamphlet titled “The Road Ahead”, he has also set out 10 principles to “form the basis of a new contract between Labour and the British people”.

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Having already spent more than 500 days as Labour leader, the publication of Sir Keir’s essay will be viewed as an attempt by the former barrister to reset his leadership.

It comes as he prepares to address his first in-person conference as party leader, and follows criticism of Sir Keir within Labour for failing to consistently overhaul the Conservatives’ poll lead during the COVID crisis.

Yet, Sir Keir’s efforts to show voters what a Labour government would look like comes amid an increasingly bitter internal party dispute over his attempts to change Labour’s rulebook.

In the 35-page pamphlet, which is priced at £5.95 and is being distributed by the Fabian Society, Sir Keir argues that Labour should not “wait around for the public to decide we are right”.

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He says that “at its best” his party “adapts and updates” and “does not look backwards – it marches forwards”.

“When we win, it is not because the country has come round to our way of thinking, but because we have seized the future and moulded it,” he writes.

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Sir Keir argues it is “impossible to live in this moment and not feel the winds of change blowing, just as they did in 1945 and 1997”.

“After the global financial crash, the Conservatives’ reckless economic approach failed to deliver growth or repair the public finances,” he adds.

“We cannot allow the same mistakes to be repeated this time around.”

And the Labour leader claims the “desire of people across the country to have real power and control – expressed most forcibly in the Brexit vote – remains unmet”.

On his vision of a “contribution society” as the UK recovers from the COVID pandemic, Sir Keir describes it as “one where people who work hard and play by the rules can expect to get something back”

“Where you can expect fair pay for fair work, where we capture the spirit that saw us through the worst ravages of the pandemic and celebrate the idea of community and society,” he adds.

“Where we understand that we are stronger together.”

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And he dismisses ex-prime minister David Cameron’s idea of a “Big Society” as a “half-hearted and quickly abandoned” idea that “paid lip service to this”.

“We would do things differently,” he says.

“In order to put contribution and community at the centre of our efforts, we would build an effective partnership of state and private sector to prioritise the things that we have seen really matter: health, living conditions, working conditions and the environment.

“And together we would flesh out those things that are less immediately tangible but still vital – community, wellbeing, security and opportunity.”

Sir Keir also says he wants Labour to “once again be Britain’s bricks and mortar – a symbol of solidity, reliability, shelter and the prospect of building something new and better”.

David Cameron leaves his home in London ahead of giving evidence to the Commons Treasury Committee on Greensill Capital. Picture date: Thursday May 13, 2021.
Image: Sir Keir dismissed former PM David Cameron’s idea of a ‘Big Society’

Responding to Sir Keir’s essay, Conservative Party co-chairman Oliver Dowden, said: “If this is Starmer’s ‘big vision’ then he should have gone to Specsavers.

“Labour are talking to themselves about themselves. They’re all essays and no action.”

And criticism of the essay also came from within Labour’s ranks, with the party’s former shadow chancellor John McDonnell telling ITV the pamphlet “reads like the Sermon on the Mount written by a focus group”.

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