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The 50 questions that Keir Starmer should answer before the next general election, but won’t

With his reshuffle completed Keir Starmer has put in place the team he will expect to campaign for the General election with. Despite maintaining an 18 point poll lead, the Labour leader has been cautious about policy and will – just like Rishi Sunak – want to press his chosen message home as he seeks convince voters to back him as Prime Minister.

But for every topic that they want to talk about there are likely several more they would probably rather avoid.

Here are the key questions that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak should answer, and why he probably won’t.

1. Can you understand why some have reservations about the influence Tony Blair has on you?
Sir Keir Starmer has allied himself ever more closely to his successor – the last Labour leader to win a general election, but hugely controversial for his role in the Iraq war.

2. Which group of voters do you consider more important, the Red Wall” or “metropolitan liberals”?
Labour is seeking to win back voters who deserted it for the Conservatives in 2019, but the party’s base is now young people in cities.

3. What will you do to help older people pay for social care?
The party has not set out a comprehensive and funded plan to fix England’s system of social care.

4. How long will it take you to turn the UK into a “growth superpower” and how exactly will you do it?
Sir Keir and the Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves say that economic growth is their top priority but have not acknowledged that might require policy trade-offs.

5. Will you continue to accept donations from people who fund radical protest groups such as Just Stop Oil?
Dale Vince, the founder of energy firm Ecotricity, is a major supporter of both Labour and the hardline wing of the environmental movement.

6. Do you have any regrets about your time as director of public prosecutions?
The Conservatives claim that Sir Keir was responsible for a number of major errors, such as wrongly prosecuting journalists for their dealings with public officials, when he was the country’s chief prosecutor.

7. Will you prioritise making up for years of public-sector pay cuts, as your union funders want, or balancing the books
The trade unions which provide the bedrock of Labour’s support would welcome an expansion of government spending but Ms Reeves has suggested this is unaffordable.

8. Should Britain ever have a referendum on rejoining the EU?
Sir Keir is clear that he does not want to reverse Brexit any time soon but has not addressed the long-term question of whether Britain is better off outside the EU.

9. Should Britain rejoin either the single market or the customs union?
Labour’s policy is to strike a closer relationship with Brussels, but some EU officials say this is impossible without buying in to the bloc’s institutions in a similar way to Norway or Switzerland.

10. How will you cut queues at ports and make it easier for people to get away?
Sir Keir’s Brexit interventions so far have been more focused on the interests of business than the concerns of individuals.

11. Which countries should the UK be seeking free trade deals with?
There is a danger that in seeker closer trade ties with the EU, Labour could close off the prospect of more trade deals around the world.

12. Would there be a place for Corbyn supporters in your government?
There are currently no MPs in the Shadow Cabinet who were part of Jeremy Corbyn’s inner circle, although “Corbynistas” make up a substantial part of the parliamentary Labour Party.

13. What do you think Jeremy Corbyn was right about?
Sir Keir has repudiated the legacy of the last leader, even though he served in his top team and was publicly loyal to him at the time.

14. How long will it take for your industrial strategy to improve the UK’s growth compared to other G7 countries?
It is easy to talk about the need for future growth but voters will want to see results as soon as possible.

15. Will you continue with the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda?
Labour is opposed to the Rwanda plan, but if it is up and running when the party next comes to power it is not clear whether it will shut the policy down and on what timetable.

16. Should asylum seekers be able to apply for refugee status in the UK while located in another country?
Sir Keir’s shadow ministers say “safe and legal routes” should be available to asylum seekers but have not explained what they mean.

17. Will you stick to the 2030 deadline on banning diesel and petrol car sales?
The party has become more nervous about environmental policies since a backlash against “Ulez” caused it to lose the Uxbridge & South Ruislip by-election.

18. Would the energy price cap stay under Labour?
Although party insiders say they are open to alternative ways of regulating the energy market they do not have an answer to the best way forward.

19. How will you tackle the problem of polluted rivers?
Sir Keir is critical of current Conservative policies without being willing to commit to radical alternatives such as nationalisation of the water network.

20. How many nuclear power stations will you build, and when?
Labour did not invest in a large-scale programme of new nuclear energy when the party was last in power.

21. How long should the windfall tax on energy companies continue?
Sir Keir has not said how long the more stringent windfall tax that he supports should stay in place.

22. How will you make the UK a world leader in AI technology?
The Leader of the Opposition does not have the same ties to major tech firms that Rishi Sunak has developed.

23.Do you take the risk of AI wiping out humanity seriously and what should be done to stop it?
Despite its potential danger, Sir Keir has never publicly engaged with the question of artificial intelligence’s existential threat.

24. How will you reduce Britain’s debt to GDP ratio?
Sir Keir and Ms Reeves want to improve public services without increasing taxes – making it tricky to continue balancing the books.

25. Is it fair that capital gains tax is so much lower than income tax?
Labour appears to have ruled out increasing wealth taxes even though that has long been a key demand of its activists.

26. Should the Bank of England’s inflation target remain at 2 per cent?
Changing the inflation target could be seen as threatening Labour’s economic credibility.

27. Does it make sense to keep the triple lock in an era of high inflation?
The increasing cost of the state pension is a threat to any Labour ambition to control the public finances.

28. Will you keep the current pension age
Labour has abandoned its former policy of reimbursing “Waspi women” who claim to have suffered from changes to the retirement age.

29. How long will you keep the two-child cap on child benefit?
Sir Keir said he could not afford to scrap the cap for now, provoking a major outcry on the left.

30. When will you let UK universities increase student tuition fees so they can compete on the world stage?
The Labour leader has hinted he does not support scrapping fees, as Mr Corbyn wanted, but has not set out a vision for how British universities can remain among the world’s best.

31. Should there be more free schools set up in England?
Labour was once opposed to the free schools programme; though it would almost certainly not scrap it now, any future expansion of the policy is now in doubt.

32. Is the NHS permanently sustainable with its costs growing year on year?
Support for the NHS is perhaps the ultimate totemic belief within Labour but Wes Streeting, the shadow Health Secretary, says he is open to radical reforms.

33. Do your plans to bring in more private providers to the NHS risk privatisation by the back door?
Mr Streeting sees the involvement of private companies as a way of driving up efficiency in the health system.

34. What will you do to solve the lack of affordable and social housing in Britain?
Labour’s commitment to building more homes of all types has a different emphasis to its traditional prioritisation of housing for the poorest in society.

35. Should communities get the final say over what buildings can or cannot be built near them
The party’s proposals for planning reform have not been set out in detail.

36. Should HS2 rail go to Leeds?
It is unclear how a Labour government would fund the eastern leg of HS2 without risking breaking its fiscal rules.

37. Should “Northern Powerhouse Rail” be built in full from the west coast to the east?
This policy is hugely popular in Labour’s urban heartlands but may not be a priority as the party plans its infrastructure investments.

38. What can be done to ensure more rape victims get justice?
As a former prosecutor, Sir Keir has experience in making the courts work better.

39. Should Nato expand to include all other European countries that want to join
Labour’s top team do not have a great deal of foreign policy experience, though they say they are committed to the ongoing defence of Ukraine.

40. Should the UK intervene to defend Taiwan’s independence?
The party can sound hawkish on China – it remains to be seen whether that extends as far as risking war with the superpower.

41. Should Ukraine ever be encouraged to make peace with Russia?
Sir Keir has refused to discuss publicly what the endgame of the current war might look like.

42. When, if ever, should Scotland hold another referendum on independence?
Labour is not opposed to the idea of a second referendum at some point and the pressure for a re-run of the 2014 vote may continue to grow.

43. Should Wales ever hold a referendum on independence?
Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, has previously sounded sympathetic to the idea of greater autonomy for Wales.

44. What is your plan for restoring power-sharing government in Northern Ireland?
Sir Keir must acknowledge there is no guarantee the current impasse in Northern Ireland is resolved by the time of the next election when he hopes to take over in No 10.

45. Does the Government need to step in to impose new behavioural rules on Parliament in light of wrongdoing by MPs?
No fewer than eight Labour MPs have had the whip suspended and currently sit as independents, some having been hit with serious allegations of misconduct.

46. Do you support a move to a more proportional voting system?
The party is formally committed to some form of proportional representation but allies of Sir Keir have poured water on this policy.

47. How quickly do you want to introduce a fully elected House of Lords?
The Leader of the Opposition commissioned Gordon Brown to draw up a blueprint for constitutional change, which he claims he is committed to implementing although there is no firm timetable for when it would happen.

48. Under your plans for regional devolution, what extra powers would mayors and councils gain?
Even after a decade of devolution to English regional leaders, their powers fall far short of those held by comparable figures in most other countries.

49. Do you believe that taxes and spending can keep going up indefinitely?
Labour has not set out any long-term plans for state reform that would prevent the current spiral of ever-increasing taxation.

50. What is the point of holding power if you don’t want to implement radical economic policies?
Sir Keir’s cautious approach to leadership has given him a huge polling lead but many voters complain they do not know what he actually wants to do with the power he hopes to wield.

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