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Labour is launching a new plan to come up with policies to fight the Tories – but concrete ideas could still be two years away, PoliticsHome has learnt.
Leader Keir Starmer and party chair Anneliese Dodds will set out their new initiative “Stronger Together” in Bristol on Thursday, which is based on six new themes for the party to focus on, including green and digital policies, and public services.
The party has been widely criticised by the public and internally by its own MPs in recent weeks for being weak on policy, and that going into the local elections people still did not know what the party stood for.
Dodds, who was sacked as shadow chancellor at the post-election reshuffle, but put in charge of the party’s policy review, said that they want to build “hopeful vision” and policies that respond directly to the pandemic.
“The way our country responded to the pandemic showed the very best of Britain. It proved we’re stronger together. That belief is at the heart of everything Labour does – and it’s central to the exciting, hopeful vision for Britain under a Labour government that this roadmap will begin to set out,” she said ahead of the event.
Labour’s new project aims to develop policy on six themes: better jobs and better work, a green and digital future, safe and secure communities, public services that work from the start, a future where families come first and Britain in the world.
It is understood that Dodds will do a “horizon scan” this summer to try and identify the trends emerging in the country that will likely dominate the lives of people until 2030 and that could become election topics.
There will be interim policy proposals laid out by the summer of 2022, which will be refined up until Christmas. A “Clause V” process begins, which is when the party develops a manifesto in time for 2023 – the date speculated for an early general election.
The more “day to day” policy work and announcements will go on in the meantime, she suggested, but the Stronger Together strategy is about developing long term responses to the country’s needs.
Labour will also take lessons from their regional success stories, by absorbing effective policies from councils and regional mayors. One example could be the work done in Plymouth by the former Labour-run council, where they have a local-first procurement policy for services.
But there is concern from party members that this approach does not involve them, and that ideas they contributed under Corbyn could be axed.
Dodds is due to reach out to the membership later this week to explain the plans. They will be invited to events further down the line, and she said it does not duplicate the work of Labour’s National Policy Forum which is already working on ideas.
A source on the left of the party, said: “It sounds like [this review] has got its work cut out. There is very little politics in the messaging at the moment, never mind policy.
“Starmer promised in his leadership campaign that the 2017 manifesto would be Labour’s foundational document. This policy agenda has widespread support from the membership that voted for Starmer, and so members should be consulted on any shift away from it.”
That manifesto produced under former leader Jeremy Corbyn, included promises to create publicly owned water companies, moving National Rail and the National Grid into public ownership, 30 hours of free childcare for all two-year-olds, and abolishing tuition fees.
One Labour MP said there were valuable ideas in the 2019 manifesto too, even though the party was defeated.
They said: “Some think we need to move away from the 2019 policies altogether because we lost. But they weren’t unpopular, it was just a Brexit election and strong leavers were voting Tory and strong remainers going Lib Dem and Green.
The past manifestos are important, they said, because “it’s the basis on which Keir was elected”.