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Starmer says plans for decentralisation in Brown report would lead to ‘wider spread of power’ and better growth

In his interviews this morning Keir Starmer was keen to stressed that the recommendations in the Commission on the UK’s Future report out today go well beyond abolition of the House of Lords. He highlighted the decentralisation plans – which make for a less exciting story than the defenestration of the nation’s peers, but arguably could be more important.

Summing up the report in the overnight Labour press release, Starmer said:

The centre hasn’t delivered. We have an unbalanced economy which makes too little use of the talents of too few people in too few places. We will have higher standards in public life, a wider spread of power and opportunity, and better economic growth that benefits everyone, wherever they are. By setting our sights higher, wider, better, we can build a better future together.

And this is how Labour summarised what the report says:

Among the report’s 40 recommendations is the need to give local communities new powers over skills, transport, planning and culture to drive growth. Delivering greater powers, combined with local growth plans, will enable the emergence of hundreds of ‘clusters’ of economic activity in cities and towns across all regions and nations of the United Kingdom. The co-ordination of activity across these clusters, by the people who know the assets of these areas best, will bring together local leadership, businesses, innovators, skilled workers, unions and entrepreneurs, that can drive a ‘new pro-growth strategy and make every part of our country more prosperous’ created economic activity that is more than the sum of its parts …

To make this happen the commission proposes real economic empowerment for our devolved government, the mayors, and local authorities, including:

New powers over transport and infrastructure

New powers to stimulate growth, with longer funding settlements, and commitments to R&D that take into account local economic plans

New powers over development and housing, such as compulsory purchase orders on vacant sites

A regionally-oriented investment bank to ensure start-ups have access to equity capital needed to scale

Powers over economic development and job creation and the devolution of Jobcentres

Powers to link training and skills to local employment needs through devolution of colleges

Keir Starmer’s claim that rejoining the single market would not boost economic growth (see 8.54am) has been dismissed by experts.

This is from Jonathan Portes, a former government economist who is now a professor at King’s College London.

Obviously, Starmer doesn’t believe a word of this (any more than Jeremy Hunt does).

There are, of course, good (and bad) reasons for the UK not to seek to rejoin the Single Market, but not for denying economic reality.

— Jonathan Portes (@jdportes) December 5, 2022

And these are from Nicolai von Ondarza, head of the Europe division at SWP, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, a thinktank.

Personally, I get the political logic of Starmer not pushing for single market membership at this point. You could also argue that SM membership w/o a vote is politically unsustainable for the EU.

But the denial of clear economic costs of not being in the SM is astounding.

— Nicolai von Ondarza (@NvOndarza) December 5, 2022

And this is from Tanja Bueltmann, a professor at the University of Strathclyde specialising in migration.

Bad enough to still argue that Brexit can be made to work, but to claim—against every single piece of evidence—that rejoining the Single Market would not boost economic growth in the UK … what on earth are you hoping to achieve by spinning lines like this @Keir_Starmer?

— Prof Tanja Bueltmann (@TanjaBueltmann) December 5, 2022

Although Starmer did, in his initial response to Mishal Husain, say that he did not think membership of the single market would boost economic growth “at this stage”, his full answer implied that he thought it would be the “wrangling” leading up to return to the single market that would be bad for growth, not being back in per se. (See 8.54am.)

Starmer says he can’t see how Corbyn can be Labour candidate at next election

In his Today interview Keir Starmer also appeared to rule out Jeremy Corbyn standing as a Labour candidate at the next election. Asked if Corbyn would be the party’s candidate in Islington North at the next election, Starmer replied:

I don’t see the circumstances in which that can happen. Obviously, we’ve not got to the selection of that particular constituency yet, but I don’t see the circumstances in which Jeremy Corbyn will stand as a Labour candidate.

Corbyn is still a Labour party member, but he lost the whip more than two years ago after his response to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission report about antisemitism in the Labour party under his leadership was deemed to play down the seriousness of the problem.

At the time Starmer said that, to have the whip restored (which has to happen for Corbyn to be eligible to stand as a Labour candidate), Corbyn would have to apologise. But that has not happened, the standoff has not been resolved, and Starmer’s latest comment (which echoes what his aides have been saying in private) is probably the most explicit public confirmation from him yet about Corbyn not being able to return to the party.

Keir Starmer says he does not think rejoining single market would boost economic growth ‘at this stage’

Good morning. Keir Starmer has been doing interviews this morning ahead of the publication of the report from the party’s Commission on the UK’s Future, chaired by Gordon Brown. Most of the reporting in advance has focused on a recommendation in the report that the House of Lords should be abolished, partly because on Saturday the Times ran a story claiming “proposals to abolish the House of Lords are set to be watered down after an eleventh-hour row between Gordon Brown and Sir Keir Starmer’s advisers”. The paper claimed that Brown wanted a firm commitment from Starmer to abolish the Lords, while Starmer’s team just wanted to commit to consulting on reform. That is why when Starmer was on the Today programme a few minutes ago, the first question was about whether Starmer wanted to abolish the Lords.

Starmer said he did – but he said that when that would happen would be a matter for consultation.

But Starmer also stressed that the recomendations in the report go far beyond what should happen to the upper chamber. That was obvious in the overnight briefing released by the party ahead of the report which did not even mention the Lords, and instead stressed the party’s commitment to decentralisation, and the devolution of power to local government.

We’ll come back to those shortly, because in his Today interview Starmer was also asked about Brexit. He has repeatedly said that a Labour government would not take the UK back into the single market, but he put a particularly provocative spin on this when responding to a question from Mishal Husain, who asked if membership of the single market would boost economic growth. Starmer replied:

No, at this stage, I don’t think it would. And there’s no case for going back to the EU, or going back into the single market.

I do think there’s a case for a better Brexit. I do think there’s a very strong case for making Brexit work.

When Husain pressed him again on this, pointing out that economists say trade has suffered because the UK has been out of the single market, Starmer replied:

I think trade has gone down because the deal that we’ve got is not a very good deal. I think we can move from getting Brexit done, which is all that we’ve managed at the moment, to making Brexit work and I do think there’s a better deal.

But do I think … that going back into years of wrangling, years of uncertainty, is going to help the economy? No, I don’t.

I spent many, many years post-2016 talking to businesses who said to me, over and over again, the thing that’s hardest for us is all the uncertainty. And that for many years held us back.

I will post more from the interview shortly.

Here is the agenda for the day.

10am: Keir Starmer holds a press conference with Gordon Brown to launch the report from the Commission on the UK’s Future, which Brown chaired.

11.30pm: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

3.30pm: Starmer and Brown hold a second launch of the commission’s report in Edinburgh.

After 3.30pm: MPs resume their debate on the online safety bill. The bill has been paused for months because first Liz Truss’s government, and then Rishi Sunak’s, were considering changes to it. Those changes were announced last week.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions and, if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at [email protected]

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