Business West brings 80 members along to hear Keir Starmer’s ‘Project Hope’ speech

Amy Drummond
Senior Communications Manager | Business West
9th January 2024

This month, Business West, and more than 80 of our members, attended Sir Keir Starmer’s New Year Speech. The Labour leader delivered his ‘Project Hope’ speech against an impressive backdrop of cutting-edge machinery at the National Composites Centre (NCC), Bristol.  

For those that missed it; you can watch the full speech here and read the transcript here.  

Our Director of Policy, Matt Griffith, said, “We are really pleased that Business West was invited to attend this event, and bring over 80 members along with us. Our region has often suffered from a lack of visibility in national debates, so having a keynote New Year speech helps make the case that our place has such great economic assets, and with further investment can unlock even more benefits for the UK. We are dedicated to raising our members' engagement in high-profile events like these.”

Growth, and skills 

While there was no specific mention of the Southwest, which was not entirely unexpected given the national focus of the speech, there were plenty of mentions of the economic strategy, which will be of interest to our members.  

Starmer promised “a total overhaul in how we approach the economy and government” and that ‘the growth lever’ will be the first lever that Labour would pull to provide the money to fund public services.    

Starmer also said “I promise a new plan with new priorities, five national missions that will sweep away the era of Tory division, a plan for the long-term. With higher growth, a reformed planning system no longer blocking the homes, infrastructure and investment we need.”  

You can read about Labour’s mission to secure the highest sustained growth in the G7 here. 

On skills, he said there would be “more opportunities for your children, new technical excellence colleges training our kids in the skills they need and businesses want.”  

Starmer also underlined his position on devolution, stating that the “government in this country is too centralised and controlling, and because of that, too disconnected from the communities it needs to serve”.

What do our members think?  

Our members also shared some of their observations on the speech;  

Julia Gray, Principal & Chief Executive Officer, City of Bristol College said “It was encouraging to hear skills being mentioned in Keir Starmer’s New Year speech, along with recognition that there is a need for a national skills strategy to ensure that we can build a thriving economy by helping people to gain the right qualifications that will get them to gain employment in a changing employment market. High quality skills training, with qualifications that can respond quickly to meet the needs of employers, and keep up with changes in technology are key to economic growth, so it is vital that any future Government recognises this in any review of post-16 education after the General Election. Investing in the future of the country starts with investing in training the workforce of the future.”  

Jonathan Foster-Clark, Director, Transportation at Atkins said, “People need to be upskilled, but they also need to be able to get access to the training and travel to work - without having to depend on buying and driving a car. We desperately need transport solutions that work for different people and places. Public transport must play a central role, and we need a new approach to buses and rail.”  

Martin McCrink, Managing Partner at Copper Consultancy said, “A comment that GB Energy will look for a 1:3 ratio of investment with the private sector was interesting as was ‘reforming planning’.” 

We’re sure the speech will be a top topic of discussion at our next Bristol Initiative Meeting on 20th March 2024 and we are also launching our ‘Meet the Party' breakfast series next month, giving our members the chance to connect with and hear from prominent local politicians in Bristol, in anticipation of the May 2024 council elections.   


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