Don’t want to shock you, but that ‘rogue’ opinion poll by YouGov on June 13 – putting Nigel Farage’s populist Reform Party ahead of the Conservatives for the first time in the run-up to the General Election – looks like a true idea of current voting intentions in Britain. So what’s Labour’s plan to keep voters onside on 4th July?

Maybe, I need to review my circle of acquaintances, but I’m coming across more and more people who openly tell me they will be putting an X next to Reform on the ballot paper.

And, worryingly for Labour, not all are ex-Tories!

Brexit factor

What they have in common is that they all voted for Brexit.

So, it was probably wise of Labour’s leader Keir Starmer to ignore pleading from the ‘Remainers’ to re-join the European Union and clearly state in Labour’s manifesto that: “With Labour, Britain will stay outside of the EU.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean ignoring the post-Brexit mess left by a succession of Conservative prime ministers, especially Boris Johnson.

But, it does mean trying to make the best of Brexit while resetting our relationship with Europe – and the rest of the world.

Tightrope for Keir

It certainly is tightrope that Keir Starmer is walking – and while some complain that the Labour leader is “a bit boring”, I prefer that to reigniting the toxic basket case that was opened up by David Cameron’s referendum over staying or leaving the EU.

We can still be friends with the Europeans without being a member of their Union. We get on perfectly well (most of the time) with America without needing to become the 51st state of the USA.

One complaint

However, one complaint I do have some sympathy with is that voters don’t understand what Labour stands for.

Not the best of headlines after Sunak skips D-Day anniversary events

While most people are fed up with the Conservatives – and their latest rebrand under Rishi Sunak – after 14 years of Tory misrule that has crippled public services like NHS and left us all poorer because of their sneaky underhand tax rises and mishandling of the economy, it doesn’t mean Labour is going to have it all their own way despite what the opinion polls say in the General Election. 

There are alternatives, whether it is the more obvious challenges from the Greens, Lib Dems, Reform and the Nationalists in Scotland and Wales.

And don’t forget the better-known independents, including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Islington North and George Galloway, the left-wing firebrand, who benefitted from Labour’s disarray over the Israel-Palestine conflict in Gaza to snatch victory in a by-election in Rochdale earlier this year.

So, while Labour should win the General Election; it might not be as easy as some suggest. 

Voters need a reason to switch off the European football and turn out to vote, especially if it still raining on 4th July?

What’s Labour’s offer?

If you haven’t time to read the 130 pages of Keir Starmer’s Manifesto for Change, here are a few policies that the media may have missed, or ignored, about three things people actually say they care about.


On (legal) immigration, Labour surprisingly agrees with some of the things that Nigel Farage bangs on about.

The Labour manifesto says: “Under the Conservatives, our economy has become overly dependent on workers from abroad to fill skills shortages. As a result, we have seen net migration reach record highs; more than triple the level than at the last election in 2019. The overall level must be properly controlled and managed.”

But its solution is quite different and includes a “fair and properly managed” points-based system, linking immigration and skills policy and cracking down on employers who flout the rules. It says they will be “barred from hiring workers from abroad”. 

So, while Labour accepts “migration to address skills shortages”, it wants joined-up thinking to improve the skills and working conditions for UK citizens, including working with the country’s skills bodies, the Industrial Strategy Council and the Department for Work and Pensions. That’s something education establishments can contribute to!

Health Service

Sorting out the crisis in the National Health Service is safer territory for Labour, but the manifesto says Labour is not just going to chuck more money at the NHS. 

While it hopes to cut the staggeringly high waiting lists by offering existing staff more overtime, it wants “fundamental reform” to make the NHS more than just a sickness service, but one that helps to make us all healthier.

This means a greater focus on the management of chronic, long-term conditions, something that I welcome having been through bowel cancer and now living with pretty serious arthritis as well as heart disease.

Mental health also gets good look in with recognition that “Britain is currently suffering from a mental health epidemic that is paralysing lives, particularly those of children and young people”.

So, Labour is pledging to “reform the NHS to ensure we give mental health the same attention and focus as physical health”. 

It won’t happen overnight, but the manifesto also commits Labour to bringing back ‘the family doctor’ by incentivising GPs to see the same patient, so ongoing or complex conditions are dealt with (more) effectively. 


The bit that gets mention by the media about Labour’s plans for education is ending tax breaks for private schools to fund the recruitment of 6,500 new teachers.

But the manifesto, while clearly focused on more school-based nurseries and supporting primary education, offers fresh thinking on further & higher education as well as vocational training & apprenticeships.

However, Universities will not be front of the queue for any extra cash and will have to learn again to be partners with government after the recent ‘culture wars’ with Conservative administrations over international students and much more.

(As I am close to my word-limit for blogs, there’s a decent summary from UCL’s Alistair Jarvis on Labour’s plans for higher education).

My takeaways

My key takeaways from the manifesto’s chapter on ‘breaking down barriers to opportunity’ were the “comprehensive strategy for post‐16 education”, including creating Skills England to bring together business, training providers and trade unions with national & local government “to ensure we have the highly trained workforce needed to deliver Labour’s Industrial Strategy.”

I also liked the commitment to “better integrate further and higher education” and the pledge to “improve access to universities and raise teaching standards”.

There was also recognition that the “current higher education funding settlement does not work for the taxpayer, universities, staff, or students”. 

So, while the Tories will continue to claim Labour has no fresh ideas, a dip into Labour’s manifesto gives me more hope that Britain can finally escape the cost-of-living nightmare and the general feeling that the Conservatives have broken everything in the country since they came to power.

Time for change on 4th July!

  • Images from the Labour Party 2024 Election Manifesto. Main photo shows Labour leader Keir Starmer with his deputy Angela Rayner.