Keir Starmer will present himself as a “serious” leader for a Britain facing deep problems, in a speech attacking the Boris Johnson as “a branch of the entertainment industry”.
Buoyed by a collapse in Tory support in the polls, the Labour leader will use a New Year address to promise voters a better country “based on security, prosperity and respect”.
Sir Keir will accuse the prime minister – rocked by accusations of sleaze and of lockdown-busting No 10 parties – of being “unworthy of your trust” and of leading a government whose “incompetence is becoming plain”.
And he will paint a picture of a Britain about to enter a cost-of-living crisis, even when the immediate challenge of defeating the Omicron variant of Covid fades.
“As we begin this new year, Britain has entered a new phase,” he will say, speaking in Birmingham, where the Commonwealth Games will be staged later this year.
“The cost of living is increasing. Energy bills are going up; wages are stagnant. Tax rises are coming in April.
“Too many people do not feel safe in their streets. And good luck to anyone trying to get a quick GP appointment.”
In his Labour conference speech in September, Sir Keir first hardened his criticism of Mr Johnson’s leadership style – branding him “a trickster” and “a showman”.
In Birmingham, he will step up the attack and urge voters to embrace his sober style instead, saying: “I don’t think politics is a branch of the entertainment industry. I think it’s the serious business of getting things done.”
The speech comes after Labour opened up a six-point lead over the Conservatives, with its leader – for the first time for more than a decade – seen as the more capable prime minister.
Sir Keir finally has the shadow cabinet he wants in place, believing the promotions of Yvette Cooper (home affairs), Wes Streeting (health) and Bridget Phillipson (education) give him a government-in-waiting.
His attacks have started to hit home, but Labour is still failing to win over enough disenchanted Tory voters – who remain undecided – and he is under pressure to set out policy detail.
Sir Keir will nod to the traditional Labour voters the party needs to win back by praising the Queen, in her platinum jubilee year, and by calling himself “a patriot”.
“This country has presented me with great opportunities. It’s a great place to live,” he will say.
“But I don’t think you cease to be a patriot because you notice your country has flaws.
“On the contrary, the reason we in this party want to correct those flaws is precisely because we are patriotic. I came into politics to make things happen not just to talk about them.”
Sir Keir will add: “The Britain I want is a country in which those who contribute get something back.
“Because 2022 is also the first year in which we need to tackle some big challenges: repairing after the pandemic; combating the climate crisis; making Brexit work.”