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Starmer’s speech – the opposite of taking control

12 January 2023

Keir Starmer: stealing the Conservatives’ clothes. Photo Rwedland (CC BY-SA 4.0).

The Labour Party, in the guise of its leader Keir Starmer’s new year speech, has made its pitch to win the next general election, due in two years’ time at the latest. It takes the form of stealing the Conservative party’s slogan for the 2016 referendum and 2019 election, Take Back Control, and reinterpreting it.

The Conservatives never intended it to mean that the people would take control. The intention was to “liberate” the free market to create a free-for-all for finance capitalism. But workers used the vote to buttress the referendum decision to leave the EU.

Leaving was an essential precondition to establishing the people’s control over our laws, borders, decisions, for a unified, independent nation. It still is.

Now the lordly Starmer proclaims that what we really wanted all along was more devolution – empowering local bodies (vaguely defined as “communities”) to make decisions “over employment support, transport, energy, climate change, housing, culture, childcare provision and how councils run their finances”. 


Starmer implies in his speech that devolution would somehow automatically bring about improvements (“levelling up”) for devolved regions of Britain. Where is the evidence? For instance, health outcomes in Scotland and Wales have apparently become worse than in England, not better, since the devolved governments took over responsibility for them.

‘Far from control by the people, his proposals would create squabbling baronies.’

And far from control by the people, his proposals would create squabbling baronies, with economic fragmentation and abandonment of national standards and accountability by central government. Starmer’s ideas are dangerous catnip to forces working to break up Britain. It would lead to a kind of policy anarchy, with different “communities” varying wildly. The term “postcode lottery” would become a wild understatement. Opportunities would multiply for corruption.

You’d expect Starmer to claim he knows what the people really meant by control. But he doesn’t. Remember that in its Vote Remain campaign Labour – including Starmer, of course – had no idea what was in the minds of workers. 

The leaders of Labour were largely dumbfounded and horrified by the vote to Leave, failing to understand why workers hadn’t followed their advice. Many sneeringly attributing it to stupidity, racism and “little England” isolationism. 


Labour has always disliked the working class. Remember Gordon Brown’s disgust at Labour voter Gillian Duffy in Rochdale in 2010, calling her a “bigoted woman” for daring to challenge him on his policies?

The Conservatives are no better, of course, but shouting “Tories Out” is encouraging people to go with the other lot, the Labour Party, with the tempting notion that they will be nicer, more sympathetic to the people, more likely to support real progress for Britain. They won’t, and bitter experience demonstrates it. 

Now the two parties are stealing each other’s clothes. Starmer’s new year speech followed a day after Sunak’s with his five pledges, each full of vague promises without any specific practical plans for industry, agriculture, education, crisis in the NHS. You’d be hard put to tell the one from the other. 

Politicians say put your trust in us and we’ll save you. No. Only the people can build a decent future for Britain. The working class must take control.