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What Starmer and Labour can achieve in first week – and first 100 days

Week One

The first seven days of a Starmer premiership will be dominated by formalities: being invited by the King to form a government; the act of swearing-in as a re-elected MP and appointing his new Cabinet.

Most of the senior positions in government are already secured but there will be some decisions to be taken about junior shadow ministers who may not make the cut.

But with the Greens’ Carla Denyer displacing the shadow culture secretary Thangam Debbonaire in Bristol Central and shadow paymaster general succumbing to a shock defeat to pro-Palestinian candidate Shockat Adam in Leicester South, Starmer will have to at least tinker with his top team.

There have also been suggestions that senior campaign figures – such as Pat McFadden and Ellie Reeves – could be in line for a promotion.

Labour insiders have talked of plans for a backroom shake-up of Whitehall, under the watchful eye of chief of staff Sue Gray, in the form of new departmental boards aligned with the Starmer’s five “missions” and designed to join up cross-government organisations with private bodies.

On Tuesday Sir Keir will head to Washington for the Nato summit, his first international trip as Prime Minister. The summit, hosted by US President Joe Biden, will be the first chance for him to meet other world leaders and be seen to be received enthusiastically.

Diplomacy is a huge part of the job of PM and many of the Labour leader’s plans for government will rely on both collaboration with international partners and overseas investment in the UK – making the initial relationships with his global counterparts all the more crucial.

Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer greets Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on the day of the international ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the 1944 D-Day landings and the liberation of western Europe from Nazi Germany occupation, at Omaha Beach in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, Normandy region, France, June 6, 2024. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Starmer had a taste of international statesmanship on the day of the international ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day, where he met Ukraine’s President Vladimir Zelensky (Photo: Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

The issue of defence collaboration between Nato allies at the moment will only emphasise the importance.

The elections in France, the final round of which will take place on Sunday, could also provide immediate challenges for a Starmer government if there is a victory for the far-right National Rally.

This – and the US election later in the year – could not only pose diplomatic challenges for Sir Keir but could impact plans to negotiate closer relations with the EU, and even cause economic turbulence.

Jill Rutter from the Institute for Government said: “Any government has to cope with the consequences of international developments.

“The French elections could mean a period of stasis in France and have implications for the reset of relations with the EU an incoming Starmer government wants to see – but renegotiating trade relations was always likely to be fraught with problems.”

The following week, the UK will host the European Political Community Summit.

Ms Rutter said it still remains unclear what impact a possible Trump victory in November would have on the US and the wider global economy, the impact of which could be felt in the UK.

New Deal and King’s Speech

On 17 July the new Labour government will set out its legislative agenda in the first King’s Speech and State Opening of Parliament. The party has indicated it would cut short the summer recess to allow the King’s Speech to take place in July before MPs take a break in August.

A new law giving the Office for Budget Responsibility more independence is likely to be announced as well as flagship legislation at the centre of Labour’s New Deal for Working People, designed to bolster workers’ rights.

Labour could also use the opportunity to set out legislation focused on changing the planning laws to increase house and infrastructure building.

The party will also need to introduce legislation for its Great British Energy (GBE) plans. Ed Miliband, who is set to become energy secretary, previously said he wants to relax the rules around onshore wind farms quickly and Sir Keir said he wants to get moving on the party’s plans to set up GBE as soon as possible.

But Paul Johnson, from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), said the party may first need to clarify exactly the role GBE will play.

File photo dated 26/06/24 of Shadow secretary of state for energy security and net zero Ed Miliband, during a visit to a 'Zero Bills' home in Stafford with Octopus Energy, while on the General Election campaign trail. A look back at Labour's General Election campaign highlights as Sir Keir Starmer's party urged the public to 'vote for change'. Issue date: Thursday July 4, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS ElectionGalleryLabour. Photo credit should read: Jacob King/PA Wire
Incoming secretary of state for energy security and net zero Ed Miliband, during a visit to a ‘Zero Bills’ home in Stafford with Octopus Energy, while on the general election campaign trail (Photo: Jacob King/PA Wire)

“I think it’s very unclear, including the people in the industry, what GBE is actually going to be,” he said. “I think the thing to look out for in the first 100 days is more details what it will be, what resources it will have, what they expected to achieve, and what resources they expected to bring in from private sector.”

This, he said, will be helped by having access to “expertise and the resources of all the people in the Civil Service” which the party has been operating without until now.

Labour could also introduce laws to address antisocial behaviour and child exploitation as part of plans to tackle drug-related crimes as well as setting up the promised parliamentary Integrity and Ethics Commission.

The IFG’s Ms Rutter said Labour’s decision to announce many of its big policy interventions early on before the election has meant the party has been able to consult widely about how to take them forward, arguing this will allow them to make more progress early on.

“They look better prepared than many incoming governments – but they will want to refine and test their plans when they move into government and can get advice from officials as well. Labour recognise that these are mostly long-term plans for reform over the lifetime of a parliament.”

And there are some policy areas the party will want to get moving on that would not necessarily require new legislation, such as Sir Keir’s promise to scrap the Rwanda scheme on day one and begin work on NHS waiting lists.

There will be urgent challenges in the first weeks in how the new government plans to approach the overcrowding in prisons, shortage of teachers and ongoing junior doctor strikes.

Wes Streeting, who is set to become health secretary, will need to hit the ground running with talks with the British Medical Association to reach an agreement early on and to avoid ongoing industrial action scuppering plans to bring down the NHS backlog.

“Will a new government actually result in just more engagement from NHS staff?” Mr Johnson said. “There are these things which have the potential to make a big difference.”

Ms Rutter added: “One critical thing that the new government will have to get to grips with is setting budgets for departments, and through that support for local government, for 2025-6 and confronting many of the public service problems – for example prisons capacity – which were not properly addressed front on in the manifestos of either main party.”

Party conferences and a Budget

The summer break will eat up around a third of the government’s first 100 days – although MPs will be the first to express the need for a holiday – but as September rolls in, and parliament returns for it’s first session under Labour, the first thing on the calendar will be the annual party conferences.

This will be the first one for the Labour Party in government since 2009 and will provide a chance to continue the momentum of the election win – we might even expect some surprise policy announcements.

Another big choice to be made is deciding when to have the first Budget and spending review, which outlines funding for government departments, and which the implementation of policies, such as VAT on private school fees, will hinge upon

New chancellor Rachel Reeves said she would give the OBR at least ten week’s notice to carry out a forecast before holding the first Budget – so no emergency summer fiscal event is expected. This means it would not be taking place before mid-September.

SWERFORD, ENGLAND - JULY 1: Labour Leader, Sir Keir Starmer (C) and Rachel Reeves, UK shadow chancellor of the exchequer, speak with supporters at Heath Farm on July 1, 2024 in Swerford, England. Labour is still riding high in the polls with a 20-point lead over the Conservative Party. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Sir Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves. The shadow Chancellor’s first Budget will signal the real start of Labour’s agenda (Photo: Carl Court/Getty)

But Mr Johnson said he would advise the party to hold off until November, after the party conferences, to give themselves more time to come to the potentially difficult decisions they may have to make around public spending.

“We know they have to make spending allocations for next financial year before the end of the year. They also have a choice about whether they have a spending review which goes for three years, or indeed for the whole parliament, which has the advantage of setting certainty and a sense of direction,” he said.

“The disadvantage of that is that they are going to have to make some very big choices over a long period of time, very quickly.”

He said he is not expecting them to implement new cuts but real term reductions in spending are already factored in and difficult decisions will have to be made about which departments receive extra money at the expense of others.

But he said they could be helped out by a better-than-expected forecast and higher growth.

“I think they might get lucky on economic growth,” he said. “But when it comes to something like the spending review, making these choices between local government and early years, education and the justice system […] We know a broad sense how cuts have been made but actually getting into the nitty gritty of how bad would it be if you only gave local government 1 per cent and you gave justice 5 per cent, or vice versa, that is where they really need the additional fine-grained analysis.”

Election 2024

The general election campaign has finished and polling day has seen the Labour Party romp to an impressive win over Rishi Sunak‘s Tories.

Sir Keir Starmer and other party leaders have battled to win votes over six weeks, and i‘s election live blog covered every result as it happened. Tory big beasts from Penny Mordaunt to Grant Shapps saw big losses, while Jeremy Corbyn secured the win in Islington North.

Nigel Farage’s Reform UK also outdid expectations with four MPs elected.

But what happens next as Labour win? Follow the i‘s coverage of Starmer’s next moves as the new Prime Minister.

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