Starmer Says Wealth Creation Is Labour’s ‘Number One Mission’

(Bloomberg) -- Keir Starmer hailed wealth creation in the UK as Labour’s “number one mission” as his poll-leading party continues its push to get businesses and middle class voters on side ahead of the July 4 general election.

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In an interview with The Times newspaper, Starmer said he was “doggedly determined” that people make money. “It’s the only way our country can go forward and we should nourish and encourage that. Not just individuals but businesses,” he said, while acknowledging some may consider this an “odd” stance for a Labour party leader.

Starmer also set out plans to increase the UK’s employment rate to 80% from 75%, which would be the highest among the Group of Seven nations. Plans to embed the national careers service in job centers would help achieve this goal, he said.

He also accused the current government of turning the Department for Work & Pensions and job centers into places that administer rules on benefits, rather than help people find jobs.

In response, the Conservatives dismissed the plans as “waffle not welfare reform.” Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Mel Stride said in a statement Labour had “no plan at all to actually reform the benefits system.”

A YouGov survey conducted from May 27 to May 28 showed Labour extending its lead over the Conservatives to 27 points, despite a flurry of campaign pledges from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s party, including proposals to bring back compulsory national service and a tax cut for pensioners.

Read more: Sunak Seeks UK Game-Changer as Tories and Labour Hit by Jitters

Both parties are under pressure to explain how they would find money to spend on Britain’s beleaguered public services. Labour recently accepted Conservative plans to freeze income tax thresholds until 2028 rather than raise them in line with inflation, meaning more income is brought into a higher tax band and allowing the government to take a higher share of people’s income.

“We’re going to keep the decision as it is because we cannot afford to do otherwise,” Starmer told the Times.

Despite that pledge, the deputy director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies Helen Miller said parties are making a mistake in ruling out tax rises given the UK’s high national debt.

She was joined by an adviser to former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, who used an authored piece in The Observer newspaper to call on his party to look at wealth and capital gains taxes.

Patrick Diamond, now a professor of public policy, says a future Labour government will need to look at radical ways to raise money to compensate for “at least a decade of sustained underinvestment”.

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His calls come after the Conservatives have accused Labour of plotting to raise other taxes, a move both Starmer and Labour’s would-be Chancellor Rachel Reeves have repeatedly tried to rule out.

“We had actually said since the beginning of this campaign that none of our plans require a tax rise, so that inevitably means not VAT,” Starmer reiterated to The Times. The UK’s tax burden is currently the highest it has been since the Second World War.

Under Starmer, Labour has been keen to stress its business-friendly credentials and spent years rebuilding relationships with the business world after Jeremy Corbyn’s left-leaning leadership came to an end in 2020. The party is considering a number of City chiefs and business leaders for government roles should it come into power.

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