Speech – Launch of Labour’s Mission on Breaking down the barriers to Opportunity
Gillingham, 06 July 2023
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It’s a pleasure to welcome you all to Gillingham this morning, to a town which for the first time in at least fifty years, is now run by a Labour council.
Britain has changed. Labour has changed. And the challenge ahead, not just in Gillingham but across our country, is for Labour to change Britain. So where could be a better place, for Keir to set out, the fifth, the last but by no means least, of Labour’s Missions.
The Missions we will take from opposition into government, that will define our time in power, and by which we expect to be judged. Because to believe, as we do, that government can be a force for good, a power not just for administration but for transformation, is today distinctively Labour.
Only Labour has a vision of how government can empower us both as individuals, and as a society. Only Labour understands, that the purpose of government is to extend freedoms, to extend opportunities, for each of us, and for all of us. Only Labour is clear that the missions of government are about the quality of life not for some people, but for everyone. And that determination, that drive, to use government for good, that is clear from the Missions we have already announced.
The highest sustained growth in the G7, making everyone, not just a few, better off. Making Britain a clean energy superpower, delivering a net zero future for our country and our planet, for our children and theirs. Building an NHS fit for the future, where everyone lives well for longer. Making Britain’s streets safe, raising confidence in our police and justice systems to their highest level.
These are Labour’s priorities. A safe, prosperous, healthy, green future – not for some of us, but for all of us. These priorities are very far from what the government puts first. You don’t have to listen to their speeches to know that. You just have to live here.
Now there is no greater mission, no more important mission, no mission more clearly Labour, than the Mission we are here to talk about today. To ensure that opportunity is for everyone, that background is no barrier to getting on, that every child has the best start in life.
For me, as for Keir, this mission is not merely the core of our politics: it is deeply personal. Because I grew up in a town very much like Gillingham. A shipbuilding town where yards closed and employment vanished. A time when jobs were scarce, money was short, and poverty all too common.
But for me, in Washington in the north east, in the midst of that, I was lucky. I was lucky because I had a family rich in love, and a school which saw the value and worth, in each and every one of us, that set high standards, that saw no reason why we should not meet them. I had an education which prepared me not just to face the future, but to shape it.
I got the chances to succeed. Too many of the young people around me did not. I’m here today, in front of all of you, introducing Keir, because of that luck.
But it goes to the heart of my politics, to everything I hold true, that life should not come down to luck, that education must be about opportunity, and that opportunity must be for each of us, and for all of us. Not for some. Not for a few. Not a society where a few lucky souls are plucked from poverty, where deep inequality is justified by who is up and who is down. But opportunity for us all.
And I know, that this must not be an idle dream. The dream of a free and equal society is a dream we can and must achieve, a dream which the next Labour government will work tirelessly to deliver.
And it begins with a better start for every child, with childcare and early education to support every family and every child, to enable them to achieve and thrive.
High and rising standards, in all our schools, because there is no greater engine of opportunity, there are no greater champions for our young people than the staff who work in them, and there is no clearer way of making sure our young people are both ready for work, and ready for life.
And a better skills and university system, because in too much of our country, for too many of our communities, for too much of our economy, too many of our people aren’t getting the chances they need to succeed and upskill – not just to get by, but to get on.
Above all, it is about hope.
The hope, at root, that Britain’s best days lie ahead of us, that our future will be brighter than the past. That is the hope at the heart of Labour’s ambition for Britain. And that is why there is no greater privilege, than to introduce the leader of the Labour Party, the man I know is ready to be our next Prime Minister, to set out the brighter future we are determined to create, for each of us and for all of us, the Mission on Opportunity which the next Labour government will deliver, Keir Starmer.