I’ll be bolder than Tony Blair on public service reform, pledges Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to be bolder than former prime minister Sir Tony Blair in his approach to public service reform if Labour wins the next election.

The opposition leader used an interview with The Observer to pitch his “reforming” vision for the sector, which he said would include radical ideas for the NHS.

The party would go “further than Blair on public services, further than the Tories in the private sector”, Sir Keir told the paper ahead of local elections on Thursday.

Good Friday Agreement 25th Anniversary
Former prime minister Sir Tony Blair (Charles McQuillan/PA)

Among its policy targets would be a revamp of tuition fees and an acceleration of housing building to get more people on the property ladder, the leader said.

“This will be a bold and reforming Labour government bringing about real change that I hope will be felt through the generations,” Sir Keir said.

“I think we can go beyond what the Blair government did on public services… because I think there is unfinished business there.”

It marks the latest in a series of recent announcements in which the Labour leader has drawn parallels between his vision of government and the policies introduced by New Labour.

Earlier in April, he told the i he would follow a target-driven system to improve NHS waiting times like the model pursued by Sir Tony.

And at the start of the local election campaigns, he echoed the former prime minister’s “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” rhetoric from the 1990s, describing Labour as “very much the party of law and order”.

The Observer also reported that he is understood to have been in talks with the former prime minister about how to approach a first term in office.

It comes as Labour formally announced a set of measures to ramp up housebuilding to “back to the hilt hard working Brits who dream of owning their own home”.

These include the introduction of a target of 70% home ownership and pushing power back to communities by allowing local authorities to regain control.

Sir Keir will say: “The Prime Minister’s inability to take on his party means his weak, reckless, short sighted planning changes, leave generation rent in a headlock.

“We’ll reverse them and enforce requirements on local areas to build in line with local need. My Labour Party won’t be shy about taking on speculators and nimbyism in the name of the next generation of homeowners.

“Our raft of measures – from setting locally led house building targets, to giving first time byers first dibs on developments – will support the aspiration of hard working young Brits and make their dream of home ownership a reality.”

Shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy said: “Warning your home is not only about having a settled place to live, it’s about pride, reward for hard work, and security for your family.

“In rolling over to his own MPs, Rishi Sunak abandoned a whole generation of young people aspiring to own their own home. The dire consequences of his weakness are already being felt as the housing crisis deepens.”

The Tories hit back, with minister of state for housing and planning Rachel Maclean accusing the party of mixed messages.

“Labour are taking the latest political opportunity to shout from the sidelines on housebuilding – forgetting their record on building homes is abysmal and the hypocrisy of their own shadow levelling up secretary who called for housing targets to be scrapped in her own constituency,” she said.

“The Conservatives have built over two million homes since 2010, delivering the opportunity of homeownership to millions of young people as we get on with our five priorities to halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists and stop the boats.”