Sir Keir Starmer will promise the “biggest ever transfer of power from Westminster to the British people”, as the Labour leader launches a report recommending handing new economic, taxation and law-making powers to mayors and devolved governments.
The report on the UK’s future, carried out by former prime minister Gordon Brown, also recommends sweeping constitutional reform in an attempt to “clean up politics”.
It includes replacing the House of Lords with a democratic chamber, banning almost all second jobs for MPs, and moving 50,000 civil servants – 10% of the workforce – out of London.
The decentralisation of power and money away from Westminster will be pitched as a continuation of Tony Blair’s reforms and Labour’s answer to the Tories’ levelling up agenda – as Sir Keir looks to pitch himself as a prime minister-in-waiting with a serious plan for Britain.
But the Labour leader will not accept any of the recommendations on Monday when he launches the report, arguing instead that they will now be consulted on, raising obvious questions as to whether policy proposals will match the rhetoric should Labour win the next election.
However, a source close to the Labour leader insisted that Sir Keir wouldn’t have let recommendations reach the final report if he wasn’t minded on implementing them.
He described the report as a “blueprint” to address these issues and “work out where to go in the next two years”.
“We’re serious about implementation,” said a Labour figure.
“This is methodical, Keir Starmer working through how you pull the levers.”
What else is in Starmer’s plan?
Labour’s view is that George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse or Boris Johnson’s levelling up agenda were the right ambition but failed to grasp that it only works if power is devolved away from Westminster, rather than handing out pots of money from London.
As such, one key recommendation of the commission will be to end the system of distributing funds from Whitehall, with money instead being devolved to local areas to make those decisions.
Within the 40 recommendations in the report are plans to give devolved governments, mayors and local authorities new powers over transport and housing, economic development and job creation.
300 ‘economic clusters’
Sir Keir also wants to develop 300 “economic clusters” around the country – from precision medicine in Glasgow to creative media in Bristol and Bath – with the aim of doubling growth in the UK.
The report, commissioned by Sir Keir two years ago, will also recommend transferring 50,000 civil servants – just over 10% of the current workforce – out of Whitehall in order to devolve decision-making and jobs out of London.
Sir Keir also wants to “clean up” politics and bring in reform.
As such, he’s likely to back proposals to end MPs from having second jobs and introduce new rules to “end the undue influence of wealth and foreign money” in politics.
The Labour leader also wants to “get rid of the indefensible House of Lords” with the report recommending a new, democratically elected second chamber to represent the regions and nations of the UK.
However, the Labour leader has suggested he might not be able to do this until Labour wins a second term, raising questions as to whether such a commitment would appear in the next Labour manifesto.
Speaking at the launch of this report in Leeds on Monday, Sir Keir is expected to say that the “centre hasn’t delivered” as he pledges to “rebalance the economy and bring about higher standards in public life”.
‘People will get the change they deserve’
“I argued for remain. But I couldn’t disagree with the basic case that many leave voters made to me. They wanted democratic control over their lives,” Sir Keir will say, arguing these frustrations of “a Westminster system that seems remote” was also a drive for the 2014 independence referendum.
“People know Britain needs change. But they are never going to get it from the Tories.
“I am determined that, with Labour, people will get the change they deserve.”