Keir Starmer aims to take £1.7billion a year in tax from private schools to fund a learning revolution for state-educated children if he becomes PM.
The Labour leader will pledge to end their charity status in his keynote speech to the Brighton conference this week. It means they will lose their VAT exemption, now worth £1.6billion, and will have to pay £104million in business rates.
Sir Keir told the Sunday Mirror: “Labour wants every parent to be able to send their child to a great state school. But improving them to benefit everyone costs money. That’s why we can’t justify continued charitable status for private schools.”
The move that will be applauded by parents across the country is part of Sir Keir’s plan to win back voters and hammer home the message Labour is the party for working people.
Ian Vogler / Daily Mirror)
He tells how his vision for a post-Covid Britain is fuelled by his own upbringing in a working class family.
And he believes Labour’s core values are as relevant and vital to the welfare of our country today as at any time in the party’s history.
“It’s time for justice: social justice, economic justice and criminal justice,” he said. “We’re the party for working people, and we want justice for them.
Ian Vogler / Daily Mirror)
“That’s our focus going into the next General Election. People are sick of being put last, behind the rich friends of a self-serving Government of crony contracts and empty slogans like ‘levelling up’.
“They are sick of a Government that says it wants to fix social care, then puts forward a plan that doesn’t fix it.
“It’s why we believe working people are open to vote Labour again.” Sir Keir says he can’t wait to address conference delegates on Wednesday with his back-to-basics policies that will:
- Scrap Universal Credit in favour of a system that “makes work pay”.
- Include a fully costed plan to get all under-25s into jobs or training.
- Close the education attainment
gap that worsens life chances for poorer children.
- Give the climate crisis the funding and attention it deserves – quickly.
- Rebuild Britain’s footing on the world stage in a week that saw Boris Johnson’s bid for a US trade deal thwarted by President Biden.
A strident Sir Keir is relishing the battle. He knows some voters just see the lawyer in a suit. What they don’t see is the young Starmer, growing up in a working class family, with a mum who battled Still’s Disease, an incurable condition that causes painful swelling of joints and organs, for more than 50 years before she died. “I remember my dad coming home with his pay packet after mum was too ill to work – and having to make choices about which bills he could pay that month,” he says. “There were four children, my dad was a shop floor toolmaker and mum was a nurse. We were a working family. That runs through me.
“The contrast with Boris Johnson couldn’t be clearer. The opportunities I’ve had in life are in part thanks to successive Labour governments.
AFP via Getty Images)
“I want others to have those chances too. Instead now we have a National Insurance hike for working people, a Universal Credit cut and their energy bills going up.”
His desire for change is emblazoned against a long background of fighting for social justice.
Sir Keir – the first in his family to go to university – tells how that began in his early legal career with cases that still haunt and inspire him today. “One of my first was to challenge the Tories’ pit-closure programme,” he said.
“They wanted to shut mines with no plan for what happened to those communities afterwards.
“I was in court challenging that and working with the NUM, trying to push the Government back. I carry what happened with me to this day.”
He played a major part in the Northern Ireland peace process, and secured a landmark conviction of two racists who killed black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993.
Evening Standard / eyevine)
“My career has been based on trying to put wrongs right. I’ve fought for working people. Some became firm friends.” Like so many of us, he has been sickened by a year of Tory sleaze, U-turns and injustice.
Abandoned manifesto pledges, tax hikes and benefit cuts, Johnson’s Cabinet handing millions in contracts to friends, family members and rich donors. And he is looking beyond our shores too as he considers how bad Johnson is as leader.
“There is total lack of international leadership from him. He’s chair of G7. We’re a permanent member of the Security Council, of NATO, and our influence in the world is going down when it could be going up,” says Sir Keir. “We saw the price of that in Afghanistan, where his influence was much less than previous Prime Ministers because of his own reputation.”
And Sir Keir knows Labour’s reputation must also be put right to win voters trust. He said he will not rest in his battle against anti-semitism until those who left the Party over the row return to the fold.
Addressing the controversies that have blighted the Party since before he became leader last year, he said: “I’ve always set myself the test that when those who left come back to us, we will have done the necessary work.”
He confirmed disciplinary action against those accused of anti-semitic behaviour is very much on his agenda.
“We’ve still got work to do regarding the Equality and Human Rights Commission report,” he says. But he claimed the Party has “moved on, significantly”.
This week, Labour faced more unrest as Sir Keir moved to scrap its “one member, one vote” system in favour of a return to the Electoral College. Yet he stays positive ahead of his biggest platform yet.
Positive enough to put forward a plan that strikes at a Tory shrine – the protection of the country’s 2,600 private schools. Sir Keir will tell delegates poorer children are 18 months behind wealthier pupils by the time they sit GCSEs – and the pandemic has made the gap worse.
He will add: “I want every child to leave school ready for work and ready for life. We urgently need to rethink education.” His move will cause howls of anguish from 600,000 paying parents who would see fees of up to £50,000 rise by £10,000 a year. The Labour leader will tell them the money is needed so every child can get an equal start in life.
Sir Keir added: “Employers in every sector told me how much they need well-rounded young people with relevant skills and literate in technology.
“And young people have told me how ambitious they are for their own futures.” Labour’s reforms would mean every child having a laptop at home. To ensure teenagers are fit for jobs, two weeks’ work experience would be compulsory. And to prepare for the real world, statutory citizenship courses would include pension planning, mortgage applications, and understanding credit ratings and employment and rental contracts.
He ends our interview by rounding up the state of play for Labour: “So in terms of how we go into this conference – have we dealt with some of the internal problems we needed to grip? Yes, we have.
“Have we begun to reset our relationship with business? Yes, we have. Have we turned the dial on the Party from pretty well complete rejection in 2019, to a position where people are open to voting for us? Yes, we have. So we go in with optimism and positivity, to set out our store for the future. That is what we want to do. And this is the big opportunity to do it.”
The life and career of Sir Keir
1962 Born in the South London borough of Southwarkand named after Keir Hardie, the first leader of the Labour Party
1981 Leaves Reigate Grammar School in Surrey and becomes the first person in his family to go to university, studying law at Leeds
1987 He qualifies as a barrister and achieves a long held ambition to work on human rights cases, fighting for working people
2003 Helps Welsh miners suffering from a condition called Vibration Water Finger – an incurable illness affecting the blood vessels in the hands – to obtain crucial benefits after fighting to axe a controversial diagnostic test which saw claimants have to put their hands in a bucket of cold water
2002 Appointed as a Queen’s Counsel
2005 Works for free to help a Ugandan law firm successful challenge the use of the death penalty in their country. The lives of more than 400 inmates are saved after it is ruled unconstitutional
2008 Sir Keir is appointed as Britain’s top lawyer after successfully applying for the post of Director of Public Prosecutions
2012 Oversees the prosecution of Gary Dobson and David Norris for the racist murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence in Eltham, South East London, in 1993. Both got life sentences.
2020 Becomes Labour Leader after a vote by Labour members following Jeremy Corbyn ’s decision to stand down.