Keir Starmer bides his time over Labour election pitch

What did we learn from Sir Keir Starmer's new year speech?

He wants to ram home again and again that Labour has changed.

But when it comes to details, often, there aren't that many.

Senior Labour figures conclude a general election isn't very likely this year - so they want to make the case that they're not the party they were under Jeremy Corbyn, but they don't want announce stuff that turns out to be a hostage to fortune or is nicked by the government and implemented by the Conservatives instead.

So let's unpick a few of the most eye-catching elements of what Keir Starmer had to say.

Firstly, he is cloaking himself in the language of the Brexit campaign.

A man who campaigned for Remain and then wanted a second EU referendum is now dressing up a planned law to push power away from Westminster as the "Taking Back Control Bill" - and so adopting the very effective slogan of the victorious Leave campaign.

Labour desperately want to win back seats that voted Leave and subsequently abandoned them, and so we can see this use of language as the equivalent of Keir Starmer shimmying up every stairwell he can find and shouting "we get it!" from the roof tops.

He is also attempting to not just court, but "seal the deal" as one of his advisers put it to me, with voters who backed the Conservatives last time but are now disillusioned with them, but perhaps not convinced by Labour either.

Hence his reassurance, as he hopes some will see it, that Labour's solution to the country's problems won't be "getting its big government chequebook out."

That they can be trusted with the public finances, so often an Achilles' heel for Labour with crucial floating voters who decide elections.

Spending plans ambiguity

Curiously, as a sidenote, in the extracts from the speech shared with reporters beforehand, we were told he would use the word "again" at the end of that sentence, implying he believed the previous Labour government may have spent too much.

But that word didn't pass Sir Keir's lips when he delivered the speech.

Nonetheless, the words he did use prompt the question as to whether Labour would spend more, less, or the same as the Conservatives.

I asked Sir Keir this, and he ducked it - a hostage to fortune perhaps that he doesn't want to create.

Some might ask what the point of a Labour government is if it's not willing to spend more money than the Conservatives.

Sir Keir seems willing for that to be a question for some, if it helps convince others who might be suspicious of what they see as Labour's big-spending instincts of old.

Both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer are in the same contest: the contest to be prime minister after the next election.

But expect their strategies this year to be different.

Rishi Sunak, as I wrote yesterday, will want to give the immediate impression of getting stuff done.

Keir Starmer, calculating an election isn't imminent, will take his time - and be judicious, as he sees it, in his unveiling of the specifics of how he might govern if he wins power.

Sir Keir Starmer says he expects to inherit a "very badly damaged economy" from the Conservatives if he wins the next election.