Starmer 'rejects argument' tax rises needed to fund public services - and vows 'no return to austerity'

Sir Keir Starmer said he "rejects the argument" tax rises are required to rebuild public services - as he insisted there will be "no return to austerity" under a Labour government.

The Number 10 hopeful told Sky's political editor Beth Rigby that he will "properly fund" the UK's creaking infrastructure - despite very few giveaways in his manifesto.

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The Labour leader has ruled out raising income tax, national insurance and VAT in the policy document - prompting the Institute for Fiscal Studies to warn his flagship promise to deliver "genuine change" is in jeopardy.

It was put to Sir Keir that, given he does not want to raise taxes, he does not have enough money to rebuild public services after years of cuts.

But he said: "I reject that argument. I reject this suggestion that is out there - that all we can hope for with our economy is that we flatline, forever.

"I understand after 14 years why people don't necessarily believe that we can grow our economy. I do think we can grow our economy. We've got serious plans in here."

Sir Keir pointed to his pledges to overhaul planning laws to build housing and infrastructure more quickly, establish a publicly owned clean energy company and set up a National Wealth Fund to invest in industry.

He said: "These are serious planks of growth for the country.

"I understand why so far in this campaign, what's being put to us is 'are you either going to tax more or spend less?'

"But I'm rejecting that that is the only argument, so this manifesto is a total rejection of that argument. We're going for growth."

Pressed if "going for growth" meant austerity, he said: "No, there will not be austerity under a Starmer government.

"This is an election about change. We will properly fund our public services. I believe in our public services. I am totally rejecting the proposition that we cannot do better than we've done over the last 14 years."

Pointing to his former job as Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Keir added: "I ran a public service under austerity. I know the damage that it did. We will not go to austerity under a Labour government."

Sir Keir was speaking hours after he launched his manifesto with a pledge to "end the political pantomime" and "rebuild Britain".

The Labour leader is seeking to bring his party back from the political wilderness after 14 years of Conservative governments under five prime ministers - and polls suggest he is on track to do just that.

Asked if he thinks he's going to win, Sir Keir repeated his cautious mantra that he's "got to earn every vote" and "polls can't predict the future".

But he said he has been preparing for office for some time, so he is ready to "hit the ground running" on day one.

Sir Keir said: "As you would expect, I know the public would expect anybody who wants to be prime minister to be ready to hit the ground running, rolling up his or her sleeves, to be ready to start the work on day one.

"That's why I've ensured that without being complacent, we've done the homework to make sure that we can do that the day after the election, and we will start on dentistry, on health, on policing, on education, all of the change that we need.

"That is not about being complacent. It's about making sure that I can look the public in the eye and say, if you elect a Labour government in to serve you, we will roll up our sleeves and we will start that work on day one."