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Starmer pledges that Labour will make UK the fastest-growing G7 economy

By Gareth Jones
23 February 2023
Financial & Professional Services
Public Affairs

By Gareth Jones

Keir Starmer set out his vision for government today in a speech in Manchester, announcing that Labour would provide a new type of governing, outlined through the unveiling of five "missions", which include (1) securing the highest sustained growth in G7, (2) building an NHS fit for the future, (3) making Britain’s streets safe, (4) breaking down barriers to opportunity at every stage and (5) making Britain a clean energy superpower.

For most of the missions, the Labour leader was fairly light on policy detail or what these would entail. And in some ways, the speech contained some of the standard themes that any Labour leader would talk about when setting out their stall. NHS, education and green energy are well worn topics, but perhaps the one exception to that is the first pledge, which is arguably the most striking - that under a Labour government, the UK will secure the highest sustained growth in G7. This is obviously quite a bold pledge (and potentially a hostage to fortune given much of it would be outside the UK Government’s control) but it is perhaps a sign of Starmer’s strategy to establish a clear dividing line on the economy between them and the Conservatives (it is also notable that Starmer is due to make another big speech on the economy next Monday).

Central to the Labour leader’s argument here is that the Conservative Party’s short-termism has blighted the country. The past 10 years has seen the worst decade of growth in two centuries, which in part can be blamed on a government that has chopped and changed and too focused on itself. Labour, on the other hand, would bring a longer-term approach, establishing measurable missions that will bring greater stability and certainty required for sustained economic growth. In terms of what that longer-term approach might actually entail, Starmer said it would include a credible industrial strategy, ‘fixing’ the Brexit deal with the EU, reforming childcare, promoting apprenticeships, and a reformed planning system — all overseen with a “sound” fiscal approach.

As a political argument, this approach clearly makes sense. While Labour remains over 20 points ahead in the polls, Starmer is conscious that Labour still needs to ‘win’ the argument on the economy – which will undoubtedly be the number one issue at the next election (and so often Labour’s Achilles Heel in campaigns). Some may compare Starmer’s five missions to Rishi Sunak’s own five priority pledges made at the beginning of the year. Labour, however, would clearly argue that Sunak’s pledges are far more short term in scope and largely focused on ‘clearing up the mess’ of his predecessors. Indeed, many Conservatives would privately agree with Starmer’s central diagnoses that the short-termism and political volatility of past few years has had a significant negative impact on the UK.

On the broader point of whether this level of economic growth is actually achievable is perhaps one of the fundamental issues facing this country. Some would argue that politicians have failed to grasp the full extent of the crisis that the UK is in in terms of its economic performance – after all, the flatlining of economic growth and labour productivity over the past 15 years is historically unprecedented. Countless economists themselves have debated the causes for this – key ones cited are a chronic lack of investment, a dysfunctional housing market, the long-term impact of the global financial crisis and the inability of tech innovations to make tangible differences in labour productivity. Most agree that there is no simple answer to addressing this problem, but Starmer’s pledge to make the UK being the fastest-growing G7 economy a “clear and measurable” goal is designed to position him in the eyes of voters as the leading candidate to answer the question.