4 Key Things We Learned From Keir Starmer's Plan For A New Britain

The Labour leader set out his stall as his party continues to ride high in the polls.
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Keir Starmer has set out his pitch to be the next prime minister with a far-reaching plan to move power away from Westminster.

The Labour leader has pledged to “clean up” politics by clamping down on second jobs for MPs and abolishing the House of Lords by replacing it with a “democratic” assembly of nations and regions.

With Labour running 20 points ahead of the Tories in the polls, Starmer has seen an opportunity to bring to light policies that might otherwise have been seen as a distraction.

The ideas, which will be consulted on when Labour forms its next election manifesto, come from a report commissioned by Starmer and overseen by former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown.

Brown has long been a passionate advocate of devolution — delegation of power outside of Westminster — as the best alternative to independence in Scotland.

Here HuffPost UK takes you through the key recommendations in Brown’s report.

Abolish the ‘indefensible’ and ‘undemocratic’ House of Lords

One of the most headline-grabbing ideas in the report is to abolish the House of Lords and replace it with a “smaller, more representative and democratic” second chamber of nations and regions.

The recommendation comes on the back of recent controversies over Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list, where Tory party treasurers and donors have been rewarded with life peerages.

Instead, Labour’s proposed second chamber would be democratically elected and “ensure that constitutional limits on government power are obeyed” and that power is “truly shared with the devolved legislatures”.

A ‘clean up’ and ‘clear out’ of politics

Brown wants to draw up new rules for politicians and civil servants and to clamp down on outside earning for MPs.

Labour is also proposing a new anti-corruption commissioner to “root out criminal behaviour” and new bodies to restrict foreign and “corrupt” money in politics.

In a speech after the report was unveiled, Brown declared: “The era of self-regulation is over.”

A ‘Reunited’ Kingdom

Critics have seized on plans to reform the House of Lords as signs that Starmer is “out of touch” during the time of a cost of living crisis.

But the report also details how a shake-up of political power could result in economic benefits that for too long have not been fairly distributed.

Under Labour’s plans, more economic and political power will be handed to regional mayors, local authorities and devolved governments in a bid to drive up living standards outside of London.

The report has identified 288 economic “clusters” across the UK which could create tens of thousands of new jobs in new industries, such as cyber security and automation.

Meanwhile, some 50,000 civil service jobs would be transferred out of London.

Devolution Max

In a bid to see off independence movements in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, Labour is pledging extra powers for the devolved nations.

The report notes the “deep sense many have of being morally and politically abandoned by the present UK government and the desperation for greater agency”.

New councils of the nations and regions in England will be created with greater constitutional protection given to devolution.

Control of the 638 job centres across the UK will be transferred from government control to local control, as will 200 education colleges.

Scotland would be able to enter into international agreements in relation to devolved matters, the status of MSPs would be bolstered and devolution would get greater constitutional protection.

Wales could get new powers over youth justice and probation, and, like Scotland and Northern Ireland, will be given access to funding from a new British regional investment bank.

What has been the response?

Former Lords speaker Norman Fowler welcomed Labour’s proposal to replace the Lords with an elected chamber, telling Times Radio that it was a “step forward”.

But senior Tories immediately rubbished the plans, with trade minister Greg Hands claiming they would do little to “help the economy recover from Covid and Putin’s war”.

Simon Clarke, the former levelling up secretary under Liz Truss, argued an elected upper chamber would lead to “institutionalised gridlock” with both houses competing for primacy.

Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru’s leader in Westminster branded the plans a “damp squib” for Wales, which she said would only get “piecemeal” powers.

“By offering more powers to Scotland than to Wales, Labour is once again showing how much they are in awe of SNP-run Scotland while taking Labour-run Wales for granted,” she said.

“Scotland is rewarded while Labour is content for Wales to make do and mend with piecemeal powers.

“Not only does this report not go far enough, but it also backtracks from previous Labour promises – the 2017 Labour manifesto having promised the devolution of policing to Wales.”


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