Sir Keir Starmer is promising his planned reforms of the Labour Party will be like New Labour’s famous Clause IV “on steroids”.
In a speech on Saturday, the Labour leader drew comparisons with Sir Tony Blair’s controversial 1995 decision to abandon the party’s founding commitment to nationalisation in favour of his New Labour agenda.
Sir Keir told the Progressive Britain conference: “The Labour Party will only restore hope in the country if we once again become the natural vehicle for working people, an agent for their hopes and aspirations, a party of the common good.
“Some people think that all we’re doing is distancing ourselves from the previous regime – that totally misses the point.
“This is about taking our party back to where we belong and where we should always have been… back doing what we were created to do.
“That’s why I say this project goes further and deeper than New Labour’s rewriting of Clause IV… this is about rolling our sleeves up, changing our entire culture – our DNA. This is Clause IV – on steroids.”
Labour is the largest party in local government for the first time since 2002 after the Conservatives lost more than 1,000 seats at the local elections on 4 May.
This puts it on course for winning the most seats at the general election in 2024 – but just short of an outright majority.
More work to be done after elections victory
Sir Keir said that “the toughest part lies ahead” and warned of “more work to be done”.
He highlighted the multiple challenges a potential Labour government would face – an ageing population, climate change, the war in Ukraine, a global migrant crisis and rapid changes in technology.
“If you think our job in 1997 was to rebuild a crumbling public realm, that in 1964 it was to modernise an economy overly dependent on the kindness of strangers, in 1945 to build a new Britain, in a volatile world, out of the trauma of collective sacrifice, in 2024 it will have to be all three,” he said in his speech.
While his dramatic overhaul risks alienating the left of the party, the Conservatives doubt he is serious about getting rid of the final remnants of Jeremy Corbyn’s legacy.
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Tory Party chairman Greg Hands said: “Starmer is trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Everyone knows he tried to make Jeremy Corbyn prime minister twice and defended his view of the world.
“A Labour government would just revert to the same old Labour habits – spending too much, hiking taxes, increasing debt and soft sentences.”
But Sir Keir rebutted these claims and accused the Conservatives of “no longer being conservative”.
“It conserves nothing we value – not our rivers and seas, not our NHS or BBC, not our families, not our nation,” he said.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces pressure within his own party on top of last week’s local election results.
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The Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO) is officially launching on Saturday, with former home secretary and Boris Johnson ally Priti Patel due to speak.
She will say that Mr Sunak risks “presiding over the managed decline” of his party – following speculation the movement could try and reinstate Mr Johnson.