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Sir Keir Starmer has insisted he can be trusted to deliver his six pledges to voters – despite abandoning many of the promises that saw him elected Labour leader.

In an interview with Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby, Sir Keir repeatedly defended his decision to “adjust” some of the 10 pledges he made to party members when seeking to succeed Jeremy Corbyn following Labour’s disastrous 2019 general election result.

The Labour leader said: “When the facts change, the circumstances change. Good leaders know you have to adapt and change with it.”

The Labour leader was speaking following a major pre-election event in Essex, where he set out the “first steps” of a Labour government before the public heads to the polls.

Politics latest: Sunak hit with blunt question – as Starmer outlines pledges

The six targets, which have been compared to the pledge card Sir Tony Blair put to voters before the 1997 general election, are to deliver economic stability, cut NHS waiting lists, crack down on anti-social behaviour, recruit 6,500 new teachers, launch a new border security command and set up publicly-owned Great British Energy.

Sir Keir said the programme was “going to be hard” to achieve, adding that the public could expect to see the promises materialise within two terms of a Labour government.

The promises have also been compared to the 10 pledges Sir Keir made when he was seeking to become leader – many of which have now been diluted or abandoned.

Among the promises he made in the 2020 leadership election that have since been scaled back are bringing back free tuition and nationalising key public utilities.

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What are Labour’s six pledges?

‘Junked pretty much every pledge’

Asked whether he was “trustworthy” given he had “junked pretty much every pledge you were elected Labour leader on”, Sir Keir replied: “You’ll know that for each of the 10 pledges, there’s about two or three sitting under them.

“That’s about 30 commitments, of which a few have been adjusted. The vast majority are in place, but I accept that some of them have been adjusted.”

Read more:
Keeping lid on promises now may serve Labour well in future
What are Labour’s pledges for government?

He drew comparisons with Liz Truss – who survived just 44 days as prime minister after her economic strategy unravelled – saying: “I think the public might be less trusting than you suggest of someone who says, ‘well, I said I’d do this, the economy has now been damaged, but I’m going to do it anyway, even though we can’t afford it’.

“I honestly don’t think that builds trust and confidence because the public know the circumstances have changed.”

‘No clear, measurable targets’

While the pledges have been seen as an expansion of the five “missions” Sir Keir laid out last year, he nevertheless faced questions that his new set of promises lacked the specificity of those promised by Sir Tony nearly three decades ago.

Rigby highlighted to Sir Keir how the former Labour prime minister promised to cut class sizes to 30 or under and cut NHS waiting lists by 100,000.

“When I look at yours, it’s economic stability, new border security, set up GB Energy,” she said.

“There’s no clear, measurable targets. Only one number on it, only one with the teachers. It’s vague enough so that you can’t be seen to break promises.

“It’s shifty isn’t it?”

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‘Not going to make a promise I don’t think I can deliver’

The Labour leader pointed to the fact he was promising 40,000 new appointments and to recruit 6,500 teachers and denied he was “under-promising”.

“I’m not going to make a promise before an election, which I don’t think I can deliver after the election,” he said.

“I think the public in the last 14 years had far too much of people who say before an election they’ll deliver everything, and afterwards they don’t. We have to break that pattern.

“So that means I have to be clear now and say there are some things I can do, there are some things I can’t do. I want to say that before the election so that I can level with the public.”

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Sunak’s Number 10 is much better at keeping secrets than others

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Sunak's Number 10 is much better at keeping secrets than others

Suddenly, at election time, political predictions become so much harder and riskier. Everything changes in a campaign, not least the news cycle.

That’s my excuse, at any rate, for failing to foresee the announcement of a general election in last week’s Politics at Jack and Sam’s.

There were a few clues – and one magisterial tweet from Financial Times journalist Lucy Fisher – but we were deaf to the signals.

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Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak speaks to journalists on the plane on their way to Staffordshire, Britain May 24, 2024. HENRY NICHOLLS/Pool via REUTERS
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Pic: Reuters

In this week’s Politics At Jack and Sam’s podcast, we reflect how this Number 10 – in big contrast to the last two – is much better at keeping secrets.

But the moment an election is called, the way information gets out alters and everything becomes trickier.

Follow live – general election latest:
Tories attack Starmer’s ‘stamina’ as PM shuns team to campaign

Normally political news emerges in so many different ways. There’s parliament. Government announcements. Questions, written and oral. MPs themselves, including ministers, wandering the corridors of the Commons where journalists can go stopping for a gossip.

All of that disappears at election time. Keeping things secret from the other side matters a lot more, while decisions and information is held by a much tighter group of people.

That’s why it’s not really feasible to do a weekly look ahead political podcast – and we’re responding by going daily. More details to follow.

Rishi Sunak‘s allies are quite upfront that the timing of the general election was a finely balanced argument and you can make a case both ways.

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Sunak defends wet election announcement

One of the big things that motivated Sunak to go now was that he was doing – in his view – big things; welfare announcements, defence spending commitments, NHS workforce plan.

But they found people weren’t listening and the polls weren’t moving. They weren’t “getting a hearing”. Which they put down to people being switched off from politics and apathy being high – and so the decision to call an election was motivated by that.

The other big consideration was that from around March, early April they were getting internal economic indicators, suggesting the economic conditions – things like inflation, interest rates – might be favourable sufficiently such that they could base a campaign around.

Fascinatingly, they say there wasn’t a “decision” meeting two months ago or even three weeks ago – the move was more like the tide coming in slowly.

Although Labour were caught on the hop – some staff had booked leave, were privately confident there was nothing coming this summer and the Labour campaign bus is not yet ready – candidates claim to be pretty happy with what’s happened so far.

However, the biggest challenge of the next five weeks will be seeing whether they can respond to the pressure of a campaign, and the relentless desire for more of everything.

Currently the narrative is that Sunak had a miserable start – in a few weeks, pictures of the PM in the rain could be a plucky fighter battling against the odds.

This feels unlikely right now, but having been through the 2017 campaign, we know anything can happen.

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Trump promises to release Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht if re-elected

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Trump promises to release Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht if re-elected

Former United States President Donald Trump vows to free Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht if re-elected.

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Donald Trump declares US must not settle for ‘second place’ in crypto industry

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Donald Trump declares US must not settle for ‘second place’ in crypto industry

Former United States President Donald Trump claims he is “very open minded” to “all things related to this new and burgeoning industry.”

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