Since taking the helm of the Labour Party after its routing in 2019, Keir Starmer has presided over a rightward lurch from.
Despite claiming to be the party of working people, Labour now endorses the Tories’ economic policy, social security cuts and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
In addition to deploying his shadow cabinet to defend his screeching u-turns, the Labour leader has junked many of his pledges himself, including tuition fees, green investment and tax hikes for tech companies and the ultra-wealthy.
So what exactly does Labour stand for now? Here, we break down some of the party’s biggest policy reversals.
Broken pledge: The ‘heinous’ two child cap
In June 2023, Labour’s shadow work & pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth utterly condemned the Tories’ two child cap, a policy that limits the support payments for low income families to just two children.
He branded the policy as “heinous” and a feature of the UK’s “threadbare” safety net. The policy is “absolutely keeping children in poverty” he said in an interview with the Mirror.
— Mirror Politics (@MirrorPolitics) June 3, 2023
But only a few weeks later, Ashworth had changed his view entirely. A torturous few days of speculation and in-fighting ended with confirmation from Keir Starmer that Labour had ditched their opposition to the policy.
His work & pensions spokesman was once again in the media, this time defending his boss’ decision to keep the “heinous” policy in place.
‘We cannot make unfunded spending commitments’
Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary Jonathan Ashworth says Labour will ‘not be changing’ its new policy to keep the two-child cap on benefits if it gets into government https://t.co/P0zxS1DNGF pic.twitter.com/sARcUE7xJI
— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) July 17, 2023
According to the Child Poverty Action Group, scrapping the policy would lift at least 250,000 children out of poverty and a further 850,000 would be in less deep poverty.
The SNP is resolutely committed to abolishing the policy for good, with First Minister Humza Yousaf offering to support a progressive alliance in Westminster to do so.
Broken pledge: The bedroom tax
In 2013, Labour’s Rachel Reeves was a vocal opponent of the Tories’ callous bedroom tax.
The policy sees low income earners in social housing hit with a charge for their spare bedrooms and was enforced by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition.
Figures in 2013, when Ms Reeves slated the tax in the national newspapers, showed 375,000 were affected by the policy and needy families were more £700 a year worse off.
But having soared up the Labour Party ladder to be Keir Starmer’s shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves has since dropped her vocal opposition and now claims the party won’t be able to afford to scrap the policies that are keeping families in poverty.
Rachel Reeves: Labour may be unable to scrap bedroom tax and child benefit cap https://t.co/MqcsDlAWRN
— Guardian news (@guardiannews) July 19, 2023
In Scotland, the SNP Scottish Government pours hundreds of millions into mitigating the bedroom tax so low income families are not penalised for having a safe place to call home.
Broken pledge: Rent controls
Only last year, Labour’s Lisa Nandy was exploring the idea of rent controls in an effort to combat the housing crisis.
Addressing Labour members at the party’s 2022 conference, the shadow housing & communities secretary even said she was “personally very interested and attracted by the idea.”
At the same time, Labour in Wales joined with the Tories to vote against Plaid Cymru’s attempt to emulate Scotland’s successful rent controls and eviction ban.
But less than a year later she was in the newspapers confirming Labour’s latest u-turn. The idea was ditched and the party’s proposals to help renters were heavily watered down.
Labour scraps pledge to bring in rent controls https://t.co/wAr8ypuCIN
— Streets Kitchen (@streetskitchen) June 28, 2023
In Scotland, the SNP introduced rent controls and extended housing support measures to protect renters from becoming the next victims of the Tories’ cost-of-living crisis.
Broken pledge: Tuition fees
Keir Starmer’s deputy, Angela Rayner, had been a fierce advocate for the abolition of tuition fees during her tenure as shadow education secretary. Writing for Labour’s website in 2018, she confirmed the party’s plans to re-introduce maintenance grants, supporting universities and students.
Labour really didn’t like my question today, can’t figure out why. pic.twitter.com/528HecuerQ
— Stephen Flynn MP (@StephenFlynnSNP) May 3, 2023
Under Starmer, Labour abandoned this commitment too and dodged challenges from the SNP to stand up for students. Tuition fees have skyrocketed on the Tories’ watch, further adding to the financial pressure heaped on young people during a cost of living crisis.
Rayner defended the u-turn in May 2023, blaming the pandemic and the Tories’ mini-budget as the reason Labour dropped their pledge to deliver for students.
In Scotland, students are entitled to free tuition at our world-class universities under the SNP Scottish Government. We have also introduced the Scottish Child Payment, 22,000 opportunities in two years through the Young Person’s Guarantee, free bus travel for under 22’s and countless other policies to ensure our young people get the best start in life.
Scotland deserves so much better
Labour’s list of u-turns on progressive policies looks likely to continue, as Keir Starmer positions the party firmly on the right in the run up to the next general election.
Starmer’s decision to abandon progressive values proves that the SNP is the only major party in Scotland determined to stand up for working people. If the Labour Party is embracing Tory orthodoxy, then what is the point of it anymore?
While Labour works to become a pale imitation of the Tories, the SNP is delivering for Scotland. We believe in a wealthier, fairer and greener Scotland, with a thriving economy, efficient public services and a compassionate welfare system. Not a stagnating society with Westminster managing its decline.
These are our principles – and unlike Keir Starmer’s Labour, we can be trusted to stand by them.