Keir Starmer has ordered his team to finalize his manifesto policies within weeks, as Labor moves into election campaigning ahead of what officials believe will be a spring election.
The Labor leader has asked shadow ministers to prepare their policy proposals by mid-January, in time for the manifesto to be finalized on February 8. He will also embark on a series of public question and answer sessions between January and March to highlight each of Labour’s five missions, which he hopes will define the election.
Labor has even abandoned plans to carry out a shadow spending review to clarify how it would fund government departments, because shadow ministers do not believe they will have time to complete it before the election.
Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, has said he intends to call an election next year, but opinions are divided over whether they are likely to take place in the spring or autumn.
A senior Labor source said: “Sunak says he hasn’t yet decided when the election will be, but we think if you look at what he does rather than what he says, everything points to towards spring. »
Another added: “It’s all about making sure everyone is fully fit even if May doesn’t arrive. »
Ravinder Athwal, Labour’s policy chief, will be in charge of the manifesto-writing process, officials say, with each shadow department feeding into his work.
Many Labor policies have already been approved, including reform the planning systemcreating a national energy company and introducing breakfast clubs to primary schools.
However, some major questions need to be resolved, including whether and whether to deliver on the party’s pledge to spend £28 billion on green projects by the end of the parliamentary term. deliver on the commitment to replace the existing child care funding system.
Several meetings have taken place in recent weeks between members of the shadow cabinet and senior advisers to discuss the manifesto, including with Sue Gray, the former head of the Cabinet Office who became Starmer’s chief of staff in the autumn.
Labor sources said further meetings would take place in the first weeks of January before Starmer begins his pre-election tour of the country.
Once the general election is called, the party will hold a “Clause V meeting”, bringing together senior party officials, MPs and union leaders to sign the manifesto.
With Labor expected to hold back attention-grabbing policies during the crucial weeks of the election campaign, with a list of options being prepared, sources said the manifesto was largely finalized because there had a high bar for new policies with tax and spending commitments. .
One said the work done through January focused on making the document “bomb-proof” for the short campaign rather than wholesale developing new ideas. If Sunak decides to go to the polls later in the year, the document could then be added or amended, sources said.
The manifesto process has undermined Labor’s plans to decide exactly how it would allocate resources to different departments if it wins the election, meaning it will have to answer these questions once in government.
“We had hoped to be able to carry out our own comprehensive spending review, but that will no longer be possible,” a shadow minister said. “We just don’t have time.”
Sunak can call an election at any time before January 28, 2025. The Prime Minister, however, said he would do so next year, leaving two broad options.
He could announce the election soon after the budget is tabled in March, meaning it would take place in late April or early May. Subsequent elections would likely be held in the fall, given that many voters are absent in the summer. One option would be for Sunak to announce it at the Conservative Party conference in October, leading to a vote in late November or early December.