Change and growth: five key takeaways from the Labour manifesto launch

<span>Starmer said he understood the cynicism about politics but wanted to convince people that Labour could offer a fresh start. </span><span>Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire</span>
Starmer said he understood the cynicism about politics but wanted to convince people that Labour could offer a fresh start. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The Labour party launched its election manifesto on Thursday at an event at the Co-op headquarters in Manchester. Here are some of the main points.

No surprises

Keir Starmer tackled head-on the fact that there were no “rabbits out of the hat” in Labour’s manifesto. “If you want politics as pantomime, I hear Clacton is nice,” he said, in reference to Nigel Farage, the Reform UK leader, who is standing in the Essex seat.

The lack of new material played to the party’s efforts to paint itself as serious and solid. Starmer wants voters to know what they are getting, and also cautiously warned that there was “no magic wand” for fixing the country’s problems. The manifesto itself was pared down to just five central missions, with core policies only on growth through building, education, crime, the NHS and clean energy. In the words of the rival Tory electoral strategist Lynton Crosby, Labour has succeeded in getting “barnacles off the boat” and concentrating on core priorities.

Growth is king

Woven through Starmer’s speech and the manifesto were references to the priority of growth and the importance of wealth creation. He made a big argument about rejecting the idea that tax and spending were the only levers a government could pull. Starmer insisted that increasing housebuilding and infrastructure projects would be a quick way to boost growth. He also held up the plan for a national wealth fund and a new Great British Energy provider of clean energy as examples of how he would help the country grow from day one.

The message was designed to appeal to former Tory swing voters and businesses. But he also made the case that growth would be different, benefiting all of society. “The way we create wealth is broken. It leaves far too many people feeling insecure … Wealth creation is our number one priority,” he said.

Tax rises?

Starmer met with some sceptical questions from the media about what happens if growth does not occur quickly enough – does a Labour government then raise taxes, cut spending, or bend its fiscal rules on borrowing?

The Labour leader stressed again that “you won’t see any plan that takes tax measures over and above what we have already set out”.

But Starmer has not ruled out increasing some taxes that are not income tax, NI, VAT or corporation tax. If the public finances look worse than expected after they take office, there is wriggle room in the manifesto for Labour to tax unearned income such as dividends, capital gains and other wealth taxes, or close more business tax breaks and loopholes.


The only major policy area in the manifesto outside the five missions was the drive to improve standards after a scandal-hit parliament under Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak.

Starmer made some big pledges on reforming the House of Lords by scrapping hereditary peers and bringing in an age limit. He also promised new lobbying bans on ex-ministers, without saying how long for, and fines for those who break the rules. But it was his words on standards that he will be judged by, telling the Guardian that he would do better than Rishi Sunak. “I know no one will believe it’s changed until they see the action that follows. You need action when people break those codes,” he said.

Offering hope and change

Starmer’s slogan of “change” is simple and memorable. His speech was focused on convincing people that politics could make a difference, while acknowledging that “for many people the hope has been beaten out of them”. He said he understood the cynicism about politics but wanted to convince people that Labour could offer a fresh start. To cement that idea that politics can offer change, he was introduced by a man living in a one-bedroom flat with his family struggling with the cost of living, a teacher with a terminal cancer diagnosis who could have been seen by the NHS sooner, and a young person voting in her first election.

The policies on 100,000 more nursery places, school breakfast clubs, improving employment rights for workers, and recruiting more police officers and NHS staff are all designed to address the sense that public services in Britain are broken. “This manifesto is a manifesto for change. A rejection of cynicism, the idea that we can’t do any better,” Starmer said.