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Inside Labour’s ‘Mission-Driven Government’ Approach

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Labour’s five missions set out the aspirations of a Labour government if it comes to power and will form the backbone of Labour’s election manifesto – they are Keir Starmer’s ‘big idea’. These missions – growth, net zero, crime, opportunity, and health – are a central pillar running through Labour’s policy interventions and political strategy. Whilst there are only five shadow frontbench teams that sit directly under a mission, it is the responsibility of Labour’s thirty-one Shadow Cabinet Ministers to ensure that the priorities within their own roles are linked to the success and amplification of those missions.

Indeed, Labour’s recent announcement of its plan to ‘Fix Britain’s Railways’ is an example of this. As one opens Labour’s glossy ‘Getting Britain Moving’ policy pamphlet, the first page sets out Labour’s five missions and precisely how improved transport outcomes contribute to the success of each mission.

Despite Labour under Keir Starmer enjoying a healthy polling lead over the Conservatives, there has been some scepticism of the ‘mission-driven government’ approach. However, this has not dissuaded Starmer from his belief that the missions should be at the forefront of Labour’s ‘retail offer’.

The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, the missions represent a genuine policy direction of a Keir Starmer government, a reform agenda grounded in the reality of governing. For Labour, the UK’s economic outlook leaves little room for fiscal policy manoeuvring and further top-to-bottom reorganisations of institutions such as the NHS are neither straightforward nor likely to deliver timely results. Consequently, what remains as an option is to shape an agenda focused on prevention, early intervention and optimising the use of existing resources. This is central to Labour’s plan which emphasises the need to build resilience and security across economic and social outcomes.

There is also a cognisance within Labour’s outlook that the realities of governing dictate the need to prioritise and manage expectations. Four or five years in parliamentary and legislative time is not as extensive as it sounds and avoiding the pitfalls of overpromising and underdelivering is a necessity. Labour realises that it cannot achieve everything in one term, which is why Keir Starmer repeatedly references a “decade of national renewal”.

Secondly, Starmer’s missions constitute an important political dimension: that Labour has moved on from the Corbyn era and would be dealing with the domestic and global challenges as it would inherit them, eschewing ideology in favour of modern-day, pragmatic solutions.

Currently, Labour’s opinion polling points to a significant lead, with Sir John Curtice speculating that the Party’s probability of forming the next government is as high as 99%. Crucially, Labour strategists know that the biggest threat to Labour’s sizeable lead is perhaps not the Conservative Party per se, but rather, ambivalence, political cynicism, and the accusation that all politicians are the same. Continuing to demonstrate that there is clear distinction between Labour and the Conservatives is a political imperative for Labour.

Opposition leaders frequently must grapple with the challenge that voters do not know or understand what they stand for or that the Leader of the Opposition does not have a plan for the issues which matter most to the electorate. As a latecomer to politics, it is particularly important for Starmer that his political creed is clear and exactly how it translates into outcomes. This is why the missions are a vital part of Starmer’s leadership and why politicians across the Labour frontbench will continue to reiterate the ‘mission-driven government’ approach.

For businesses, industries and charities who want to engage with and understand Labour, it is essential that they can articulate how their priorities contribute to the delivery of Labour’s missions in government. It is also important to think about ways in which they might partner with a prospective Labour government to advance their and the nation’s agenda in the context of the missions.

If you would like to discuss your approach to engaging with a prospective Labour government, please do get in touch with Arden’s dedicated Labour Directorate.

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