Keir Starmer tells Boris 'this is no time for tax rises' OR austerity

Keir Starmer tells Boris Johnson ‘this is no time for tax rises’ OR a new wave of austerity as he channels postwar Labour leader Clement Attlee to demand a future that does not ‘waste the sacrifices of the last year’

  • The Labour boss warned the PM and Chancellor Rishi Sunak over March Budget 
  • Cautioned  against hiking taxes or implementing a new wave of austerity 
  • Called for fiscal event to avoid short-term measures to balance the books

Sir Keir Starmer warned Boris Johnson not to ‘waste the sacrifices of the last year’ with a botched rebuilding of the UK economy today as he set out his own economic vision for the future.

The Labour boss warned the PM and Chancellor Rishi Sunak against hiking taxes or implementing a new wave of austerity in a ‘roadmap to yesterday’ as he sought to reboot his leadership.

He called for the March Budget to avoid short-term measures to balance the books and invoked post-war Labour prime minister Clement Attlee to say that Britain should be rebuild with a longer-term, futuristic vision.

Mr Attlee heavily defeated Winston Churchill in the general election held following the Second World War and went on to build the NHS and other major arms of the welfare state. 

But Mr Starmer, who has faced accusations of a lacklustre first year in charge of the party, also criticised the policies of predecessor Jeremy Corbyn as he set out to woo businesses, saying they were not ‘something just to be tolerated or taxed.’

He described next month’s Budget as a fork in the road, saying that ‘the public finances must be returned to sustainability over the medium to long-term not in the short-term’.

‘So this is no time for a second wave of austerity. And this is no time for tax rises on businesses and families either,’ he said in the speech broadcast live from Labour headquarters.

‘That would waste the sacrifices of the last year. And it would choke off our recovery.’

He said there is a ‘moral and political choice’ to be made about how the UK moves on from Covid-19. 

He called for the March Budget to avoid short-term measures to balance the books and invoked post-war Labour prime minister Clement Attlee to say that Britain should be rebuild with a longer-term, futuristic vision. 

Attlee (pictured), defeated Winston Churchill in the general election held following the Second World War and went on to build the NHS and the rest of the Welfare State

The Labour boss warned the PM and Chancellor Rishi Sunak against hiking taxes or implementing a new wave of austerity in a ‘roadmap to yesterday’ as he sought to reboot his leadership.

Keir Starmer hit out at the anti-business attitude of his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn and his shadow chancellor John McDonnell today as he tried to reset ties with the private sector.

In a thinly-veiled reference to the previous party leadership he said that Labour ‘for too long’ failed to realise that it needed ‘a strong partnership with business’ to achieve its aims of social justice and equality.

It had echoes of Tony Blair’s ‘prawn cocktail offensive’ of the 1990s as he sought to rid the party of its militant past. 

But for five years Mr McDonnell had a difficult relationship with businesses over his hard Left past. 

In 2018 he urged business to get behind Labour’s plans for higher taxes if they want a seat at the policy making table.

He said: ‘There are some policies that you will like and some of which you will be less enthusiastic about.

‘I don’t expect some people to be overjoyed at having to pay a bit more in income tax or corporation tax or at the introduction of a Financial Transaction Tax.’

But speaking today Sir Keir said: ‘Under my leadership, that mind-set will change. I believe in the power of active, enterprising government working alongside British business.

‘Not because I believe business is something just to be tolerated or taxed, but because I know that governments can’t do this on their own.

‘And that a new partnership with British businesses is the only way to build a secure economy, strong families and a prosperous country.’

 

Sir Keir said there is ‘a chance to diagnose the condition of Britain and to start the process of putting it right,’ adding: ‘That’s the path I would take in the March Budget. To begin a new chapter in the history for our country.’

The pandemic was made worse because ‘the foundations of our society have been weakened over a decade’, he added.

‘We’ve the worst death toll in Europe and the worst economic crisis of any major economy.

‘Now, I’ve said a lot about the incompetence of the Government’s handling of the pandemic and I make no apology for that.

‘They have been slow at every stage. They’ve ignored advice. They haven’t learnt from their mistakes.

‘Yet a Government out of its depth is not even half the story.

‘The terrible damage caused by the virus to health and to prosperity has been made all the worse because the foundations of our society have been weakened over a decade.’

In another reference to Mr Attlee’s administration, he added: ‘The age in which Government did little but collect and distribute revenue is over.

‘I believe people are now looking for more from their Government – like they were after the Second World War.’

Sir Keir Starmer said he would create a ‘new partnership’ between Labour and businesses, announcing plans to offer 100,000 start-up loans if he comes to power.

The party leader said in an online speech: ‘If we’re honest, for too long Labour has failed to realise that the only way to deliver social justice and equality is through a strong partnership with business – under my leadership, that mind-set will change.

‘A new partnership with business – one where we have high expectations of business and where business can have high expectations of Labour – is pivotal to my leadership and to my vision of the future.

‘That’s why, if I was prime minister, I’d back a new generation of British entrepreneurs by providing start-up loans for 100,000 new businesses across every region of the UK.

‘For too long, businesses have been concentrated in too few parts of our country – this doesn’t reflect where our talent lies and it stifles potential.’

He backed the creation of a ‘British recovery bond’ to help provide money for investment in communities.

The Opposition leader said the move was in response to the Bank of England suggesting the ‘vast majority of savings built up during the pandemic won’t be spent’.

Sir Keir is facing questions about why Labour remains below the Conservatives in the polls. And last night his ‘reset’ speech was dismissed as not radical enough by the Left-wing of his party.

Andrew Scattergood, co-chairman of the pro-Jeremy Corbyn Momentum group, said it had ‘no ambition, little substance’.

He added: ‘We can’t win in 2024 by promising to be better managers of the same system.’

Sir Keir, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, was expected to bring his experience as a lawyer to forensically cross-examine Boris Johnson in the Commons.

But earlier this month he was humiliated by having to admit he had made a mistake at Prime Minister’s Questions.

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