Keir Starmer has picked the election slogan of US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, “Stronger Together”, to badge the wide-ranging policy review that will lay the groundwork for Labour’s next manifesto.
Party chair Anneliese Dodds said the “Stronger Together” overhaul, which she will oversee, would focus on channelling the solidarity shown by the British public during the pandemic.
Dodds, who was put in charge of reviewing Labour policy after last month’s fraught reshuffle, accused the government of failing to learn the lessons of the crisis.
“One of the frustrating aspects of the Conservatives’ approach is that they haven’t learned from the things that were achieved in this period, and thought about how they can help all of us for the future,” she said.
Citing collective projects, from communities banding together to buy neighbours’ shopping, to the state-backed development of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Dodds said a Labour government would build on this spirit of togetherness.
As well as being widely used by Clinton in 2016, the “Stronger Together” strapline is reminiscent of both the “Better Together” slogan used by the no campaign in the 2014 Scottish referendum, and “Stronger In”, the name of the failed anti-Brexit campaign two years later.
But Dodds said the idea harked back to the party’s founding principles. “That recognition that we’re stronger together is at the foundation of the Labour party,” she said. “That’s why we were founded as a party, because we knew that.”
Clinton reportedly looked at 84 other slogans before adopting Stronger Together, alongside I’m With Her. A Labour aide pointed out that the full title of Dodds’s review is “Stronger Together: A Better Future for Britain”.
Dodds’s policy “roadmap,” which is expected to take more than 18 months to carry out, will cover six broad areas, including “a green and digital future,” “Britain in the world,” and “public services that work from the start”.
Labour leftwingers have called on Starmer to use the 2019 manifesto, drawn up under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, as a starting point. But Dodds said that had never been the party’s practice. “The Labour party obviously creates its manifesto anew, every time that there’s an election. That happened in 2019, 2017, 2015, 2010. It’s always happened.”
Under the heading of “putting families first”, she said her review would build on work done by shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds on overhauling the welfare system.
“Our social security system just doesn’t fit people’s working lives currently at all,” she said. “We know that the majority of children that are growing up in poverty are in working households. Clearly something is going very wrong there.”
Dodds and Starmer will visit Airbus in Bristol on Thursday to launch the review formally, and hear about how the company used test aircraft to fly in PPE for frontline staff.
Starmer said, “When the pandemic hit Britain was too divided. We were too fractured as a country after a decade of the Conservatives. That meant we weren’t as well prepared as we could have been, so the pandemic hit us harder.”
But he said the British people had responded by stepping up to help their communities, and “Labour wants to harness that spirit to start building a better future for everyone in Britain.”
Labour has published several detailed policies on tackling the pandemic – such as its own more generous alternative to the government’s schools catch-up plan, for example. But with the next general election likely to be held in 2023 at the earliest, the party is wary of setting out forward-looking plans.
Gaya Sriskanthan, co-chair of the leftwing Labour campaign group Momentum, said it was time to move beyond soundbites, however.
“Labour needs more than a few platitudes,” she said. “We need a vision for a different country and a willingness to call out inequality and the power of the richest.”
A separate policy review, announced by Starmer in December and chaired by former prime minister Gordon Brown, will look at the constitutional makeup of the UK.
It is expected to outline a new settlement in Scotland, potentially with more powers devolved to Holyrood and beyond that to local authorities.
Dodds said it was for Scottish Labour, under new leader Anas Sarwar, to determine the party’s position on Scottish independence. But as a Scot herself, she said, “I really do believe that we’ve got a shared history and a shared future as well”. She said one task of the review would be to ask: “What is our national story for the UK?”
Dodds was replaced by Rachel Reeves last month, as Starmer reshuffled his team after the embarrassing loss of the Hartlepool byelection.
Asked how it felt to be told she had to leave her post, she is philosophical. “You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth, haven’t you, in politics? Keir is ultimately the manager of the football team, he decides who goes where. I’m just glad I can make a contribution in a different way, hopefully.”