Keir Starmer has started 2022 with a speech promising a “contract with the British people”.
The Labour leader tried to seize the momentum in Birmingham after polls put Labour ahead of the Tories over Christmas.
But he insisted there is still a lot of work to do in winning back the public’s trust.
Standing in front of the Union flag, he said while Labour is not a “nationalist party”, it is a “national party”, and he accused Boris Johnson of putting the Union at risk.
He said the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham offer the opportunity for Britain to again show it is an “open, generous, tolerant nation” – as it did last year when England reached the final of football’s European Championship.
While the UK remains a “great place to live”, he said it is not unpatriotic to point out that the country has flaws.
“On the contrary, the reason we in this party want to correct those flaws is precisely because we are patriotic,” Sir Keir said.
So what principles for a new Britain did he set out in his new speech?
A contract with the British people
Labour’s leader offered a new “contract with the British people” as he set out his vision of how the party would govern in office.
The next Labour government would enable Brits to feel safe, prosperous and respected, as outlined in three key principles: “security, prosperity and respect”.
He said crime and anti-social behaviour “matter to me personally”, adding security was a “matter of social justice”.
Labour, he said, would provide crime prevention teams in every neighbourhood, new police hubs and introduce a “new tough approach to closing down drug dens with new powers for local police and local authorities”.
He vowed to ensure people “feel more secure at work”, introducing new protections for workers.
And with a long term plan for the NHS, Labour’s long term plan will shift the emphasis from “emergency care to preventing people getting sick in the first place”.
On prosperity, he said Britain needed an industrial strategy to improve productivity, “to ensure that we buy, make and sell more in Britain”.
He spoke about Labour’s climate investment pledge and the importance of skills “to ensure that the next generation of students is ready for work and ready for life”.
Sir Keir said everyone “has the right to be treated with respect, no places should be left behind and nobody should be treated as if they don’t matter”.
“I believe passionately that everyone has a right to be treated with respect. No places should be left behind. And nobody should be treated as if they don’t matter,” he said.
“I know this can happen. I saw it with my dad. My dad always felt undervalued because he worked in a factory. He felt people looked down on him. And he wasn’t wrong about that.”
The former Director of Public Prosecutions added: “In Britain, we make and we will always play by the rules.
“I regard the rule of law as one of the things that makes Britain great.”
Sir Keir spoke in front of a Union Jack flag, and name-checked the Attlee, Wilson and Blair Governments, pledging to “write the fourth chapter”.
He omitted to mention his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn in his speech, as he spoke of the importance of national defence and Nato.
He outlined his belief in the UK Union and “making Brexit work”, as well as marking the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022.
He said: “I don’t think you cease to be patriotic because you notice your country has flaws.”
Criticising Boris Johnson
Sir Keir said the Prime Minister has not earned the right to receive a knighthood.
The Labour leader slammed the PM as someone who believes “the rules apply to anyone but him”.
And he reflected on heartbreaking stories of Brits unable to attend their loved ones’ funerals as the PM enjoyed a cheese and wine party.
He distanced his leadership from what Mr Johnson is providing as he said: “I came into politics to make things happen not just to talk about them.
“I don’t think politics is a branch of the entertainment industry.”
He added: “People need solutions. People are struggling and they need help. This government is simply turning away.”
Cost of living
Sir Keir acknowledged people are struggling to make ends meet.
He said: “People are facing rising living costs, with energy bills going up and tax increases due in April, while at the same time they are struggling to get an appointment with a GP and do not feel safe in their streets.
“So I think that as we begin this new year, Britain has entered a new phase. Because just as the government has revealed itself to be unworthy of your trust its incompetence is becoming plain.”
He said he hopes to change this, giving all Brits the opportunity to “thrive”.
We should be able to “realise our ambitions and make a good life for ourselves, and have the skills we need to prosper”.
A new Britain, a new tolerant society
The Labour leader said he wanted to unite Britain with values of security, prosperity and respect, but he expects the same from people too.
Speaking in Birmingham he said Brits can “expect access to high quality healthcare, but there will be zero tolerance for abuse towards NHS staff”.
“You can expect the opportunity to acquire new skills but you will be expected to work hard and do your bit,” he added.
“You can expect better neighbourhood policing but you will be expected to behave like good neighbours in your own community too.”
Corbyn is not a winner in his eyes
In his keynote speech, Sir Keir hailed Blair, Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson as “winners”, but failed to mention his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn.
When asked why he didn’t praise Mr Corbyn in his speech, Mr Starmer said: “I have always cited Attlee, Wilson and Blair because they won.”
His remarks come weeks after Labour’s leader admitted he hadn’t spoken to Mr Corbyn in over a year.
Mr Corbyn was suspended from Labour in October 2020 after he suggested the scale of antisemitism had been “dramatically overstated” by his opponents.
Sir Keir said 2022 is a year that will require the need for big challenges to be tackled, including repairing the nation after Covid.
When asked why he is not calling for more restrictions, Sir Keir told the Mirror: “We have always said we’ll be guided by science.
“And that’s why we voted for the plan B restrictions just before Christmas and a good thing too, because the Prime Minister is now so weak that he couldn’t have got public health provisions over the line on his own votes in Parliament.”
He suggested the public, and in particular parents, will be feeling exasperated with the Government right now because we’re still discussing the roll out of ventilation and the need of vaccinations.