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A cautious but assured manifesto from Labour

Keir Starmer
By Imogen Shaw
13 June 2024
Public Affairs
general election 2024
labour party

Despite being significantly longer than the Conservative manifesto launched by the Prime Minister on Tuesday, there is little in the way of brand-new policy in the 2024 Labour manifesto. In that sense, it’s not surprising that Sky political editor Beth Rigby asked Keir Starmer to define whether this is a ‘Captain Caution’ manifesto. 

Apart from a couple of policy announcements trailed earlier this week, including Labour’s pledge to create 100,000 additional childcare places and more than 3,000 new nurseries as part of its childcare plan, most of the agenda this manifesto sets out has been public knowledge for some time now. 

What the manifesto does do is bring together Labour’s existing policy priorities and tell a story about what a Starmer-led Labour government would look like. It is a balanced combination of retail offers to an electorate frustrated with stretched public services – fixing potholes, boosting NHS medical and dental appointments, bringing down energy bills, improving childcare – and business facing plans for economic growth. 

Starmer’s Labour has been eager to present itself as the party of business, and this manifesto has clearly been shaped by that priority; however, it also boasts a significant workers’ rights offer. Despite reported concerns from some of the Labour affiliated trade unions that Labour’s new deal for working people would be watered down, including Unite making public their decision to not endorse the manifesto, several key commitments on day one employment rights, ending ‘fire and rehire’ and banning exploitative zero hours contracts have been included in the final document. 

The impression this manifesto gives is that, while Labour is playing it a little safe in light of its consistently large lead in the polls, Starmer and the team around him want to capitalise on that priority and present Labour as the unanimous choice on 4 July – it is an evenly balanced mix of policies targeting core issues and grievances in the public sector, private sector, and for workers. 

Looking ahead to the future, is there anything in this manifesto that could spell trouble for a potential Labour government? 

There remains the significant challenge of how to deliver public service improvements, rather than cutting public services spending in real terms, without raising taxes beyond what Labour has already set out it will do regarding private school fees, non-doms and oil and gas levies. 

However, another, less discussed problem a Labour government might face is rows over planning and ‘nimby-ism’; this manifesto is bold and full-throated in its support for delivering new homes and new infrastructure, including building on the green belt. If Labour wins the election even with the significant majority of seats many expect it will get, that is no guarantee that backbenchers with narrow majorities will fall in behind the party line in the face of local opposition to developments.