Sir Keir Starmer is launching his election campaign on Thursday – and will promise the “character of politics will change” if Labour enters power.
The government has until December this year to call an election – although if it decides to go to the polls so late, the vote itself will not happen until January 2025.
The prime minister is yet to hold such a launch for his campaign – and this week has been marred by controversy over a claim the government has cleared the asylum backlog, which the UK’s stats watchdog is now probing.
Labour has held a double-digit lead over the Conservatives in polling since before Rishi Sunak entered Number 10, according to the Sky News poll tracker.
Speaking in the West of England, Sir Keir is set to say: “No matter the road the Tories take this year, I believe that if people see the commitment to service is always there in politics, and if they can see that people in power respect their concerns, then a lot of people across this country, after everything we’ve been through over the past 14 years, will find some hope in that.
“It will feel different. The character of politics will change, and with it the national mood. A collective breathing out, a burden lifted, and then, the space for a more hopeful look forward.
“Because the truth is, it’s this kind of politics and only this kind of politics that can offer real change.
“So do not listen to the siren voices that say we’re all the same. We’re not, and we never will be.”
Sir Keir setting out his stall to voters this early marks a contrast to last year, when Rishi Sunak spoke ahead of his Labour adversary and announced his five pledges.
In his address last year, the Labour leader promised to end “sticking plaster politics” – a phrase he has often repeated since.
Voters ‘right to be anti-Westminster’
Returning to this year, Sir Keir will also ask voters to “believe” in a “downtrodden” UK again.
He is set to say: “This year, at the general election, against the understandable despair of a downtrodden country, I will ask the British people to believe in it again.
“You’re right to be anti-Westminster and angry about what politics has become.
“But hold on to any flickering hope in your heart that things can be better, because they can, and you can choose it.
“You can reject the pointless populist gestures and the low-road cynicism that the Tories believe is all you deserve.
“That’s all they have left now. After 14 years, with nothing good to show, no practical achievements to point towards, no purpose beyond the fight to save their own skins.”
The Labour leader will also play on recent scandals to highlight a “need to clean up politics”.
He will add that under Labour there will be “no more VIP fast lanes, no more kickbacks for colleagues, no more revolving doors between government and the companies they regulate” – adding that he “will restore standards in public life with a total crackdown on cronyism: this ends now”.
He will point out that “trust in politics is now so low, so degraded” following “the sex scandals, the expenses scandals, the waste scandals, the contracts for friends, even in a crisis like the pandemic, people have looked at us and concluded we’re all just in it for ourselves”.
And as he further distances himself from the Corbyn era, Sir Keir will say that Labour is “no longer a party of protest, but a party of service”.
Speaking ahead of the event, Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden said: “Nothing is more cynical and populist than a weather vane Labour leader who has a consistent track record of telling people whatever he thinks they want to hear on any given day.
“He was for a second Brexit referendum, then he wasn’t. He told Labour members when he was running to be leader he would nationalise industry and scrap tuition fees, but then dropped these policies as soon as the contest was over. And he says he opposes Jeremy Corbyn now despite campaigning twice to make him prime minister and calling him his ‘friend’.
“The only thing we know for certain about Keir Starmer is that he has a £28bn black hole in his spending promises which will mean thousands of pounds of tax rises every year for families.”