UK political leaders have delivered their New Year messages as they prepare for the battle ahead at the ballot box.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak struck a positive tone in his remarks, looking back on what he deemed a “momentous year” and promising the Conservatives would “keep driving forward” in 2024 with tax cuts, lowering inflation and “cutting the cost of living for everyone”.
Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer highlighted the “tough year” gone by – both economically and with conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East – but pledged a future of “hope” and “change”.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey lashed out at both his rivals, insisting his party would “transform the nature of British politics for good” and “fix… a broken political system”.
The messages come as politicians of all stripes prepare for the next general election, which is expected to take place in 2024 – and has to be held before January 2025.
Mr Sunak, who is hoping to achieve a record fifth win for the Tories, but is lagging behind in the polls, decided to focus his message on the government’s achievements in 2023 – rather than the pledges he made for the year that they missed.
“We’ve delivered record funding for the NHS and social care,” he said. “Schools in England are surging up the global league tables.
“We’re getting the economy growing. We’ve cut inflation in half. We’ve delivered the biggest business tax cut in modern British history.
“And in just the last few weeks, we’ve seen an incredible £60bn of investment into the UK. So my New Year’s resolution is to keep driving forward.”
The prime minister insisted his party was “not stopping there”, saying: “We’re going further to grow our economy by reducing debt, cutting taxes, and rewarding hard work, building secure supplies of energy here at home, backing British business and delivering world class education.”
And he promised to take “decisive action to stop the boats” – an issue that has threatened his leadership in recent weeks.
Mr Sunak said the country “should look forward full of pride and optimism for what we can do together to build a brighter future for everyone”.
For Sir Keir, who is hoping to get Labour back in the driving seat at the next election, but faces problems with his own personal ratings in the polls, the message was more mixed.
He said 2023 had been “a year of pride and achievement”, pointing to the successes of England’s Lionesses in the Women’s World Cup and the coronation of King Charles.
But, the Labour leader added: “It has also been another tough year economically for millions of people. And, beyond our shores, a time of great insecurity with war still raging in Ukraine, and enormous suffering in Israel and Gaza.”
On the Middle East conflict, which has caused division in his party, he promised Labour would “do everything we can in 2024 to push for a political solution” – namely a two-state solution – saying it was “a hope that maybe fragile, but that must be kept alive”.
And he said it was “hope” that offered “the fuel for change” going forward, delivering a wider promise that come the election, his party would “renew our politics so it once again serves our country”.
Sir Keir added: “I know that politics isn’t held in particularly high regard in Britain. But I have spent four years bringing the Labour Party back to service. And in 2024 – we can do the same for politics.
“Let’s make sure this is the year where together we get Britain’s future back.”
In his punchy message, Sir Ed – who hopes to build on his small base of MPs in the next election – focused his ire on the Tories and Labour, promising “radical change” in 2024.
The Lib Dem leader highlighted the issues he believed needed tackling, including “entrenched poverty and inequality”, “climate change and the nature crisis”, and “Britain’s diminished standing in an increasingly authoritarian world”.
But he claimed the “broken political system” in Britain “leaves millions feeling powerless and excluded [and] makes it impossible to hold those in power properly to account”.
So, Sir Ed said: “It falls to us, to Liberal Democrats, to be the agents of change, once again, and bring millions with us, to make it happen.”
He added: “We must do nothing less than transform the nature of British politics for good. Hand back far more control to individuals and communities.
“Fight for a fair deal, that empowers everyone, and holds the already powerful to account. Smash the two-party system, reform our elections, and give everyone an equal voice.
“Because that is the only way we can build a fairer, greener, more caring country. That is our goal. That is our calling.”