Starmer Sets Out Labour Growth Plan in Key UK Vote Moment

(Bloomberg) -- Labour Leader Keir Starmer set out his party’s plan for government focused on economic growth and security, a crunch moment for Britain’s would-be prime minister ahead of the general election on July 4.

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“Today we can turn the page,” Starmer said at Labour’s manifesto launch in Manchester, northwest England on Thursday. “Today we can lay a new foundation of stability and on that foundation, we can start to rebuild Britain.”

Starmer is trying to preserve his party’s poll lead of more than 20 points over Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives, and publishing Labour’s manifesto without any major blow back is perhaps the last major stumbling block between him and 10 Downing Street. The 133-page document reiterated his pledge not to raise taxes on working people, and emphasized plans to build new homes, improve access to childcare and turbo-charge job creation in greener industries.

Labour has maintained its advantage in the three weeks since Sunak called a snap election, and the manifesto — by design — contained no major surprises. The serious tone leaned heavily on the idea that Britain faces a long road to recovery. On a day when National Health Service data showed waiting lists going up, one of the speakers was a cancer sufferer who set out how the delayed start to his treatment meant his condition is now terminal.

“Labour’s first steps for change are a down payment on our long-term plan for the country - an immediate repair job on the damage that has been caused under 14 years of Conservative chaos and decline,” Starmer said.

But it wasn’t all downcast. Asked why Labour’s manifesto contained no “rabbits” or surprise policies to excite voters, Starmer took aim at Nigel Farage: the leader of the populist Reform UK party, whose sudden decision to run in the seaside town of Clacton has shaken up the campaign.

“If you want politics as pantomime, I hear Clacton is nice this time of year,” Starmer said. “I’m running as a candidate to be prime minister, not a candidate to run the circus,” the Labour leader said later.

Starmer’s focus as Labour leader has been on rebuilding trust on the economy and wooing business after the socialist leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, who led the party to an historic election defeat in 2019.

On Thursday, Starmer made economic growth a central part of his manifesto pitch, saying it would be his “number one priority.”

Starmer has had to fight this election campaign batting away traditional Tory attacks that Labour would hike takes if it comes to power. He and Rachel Reeves, who will be Britain’s first female Chancellor of the Exchequer if Labour wins, have repeatedly said Labour has “no plans” to raise levies beyond what they’ve already announced.

Those tax pledges include charging VAT on private school fees, abolishing the special tax status for so-called non-doms in the UK and extending the current windfall tax on oil and gas companies.

Labour’s manifesto also confirmed the pledge to close the loophole that allows private equity fund managers to pay capital-gains tax on their investment returns, rather than the higher rate of income tax. When the party first announced the policy in 2021, it estimated it would rake in an additional £440 million for the Treasury. Its manifesto costings now indicate they expect to raise £565 million a year by the 2028-29 tax year, with much of that income directed toward expenditure on recruiting additional mental health staff in the National Health Service.

Another pledge is to increase stamp duty on purchases of residential property by overseas buyers by 1%, which Labour says would raise £20 million. The sum of tax pledges in the manifesto would raise £8.5 billion, according to the party.

The manifesto also included:

  • Cap corporation tax at 25%

  • Create a new national wealth fund

  • Great British Energy to encourage investment in clean power

  • Reform planning rules and build 1.5 million homes

  • Replace the business rates tax system

  • Open an additional 3,000 nurseries

  • Reform workers’ rights

  • Create a new industrial strategy including for AI, to build data centers and infrastructure

In a statement, Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt called Labour’s plans a “tax trap manifesto.”

But Starmer hit back at the Tories’ record in office, as he pitched himself as the change candidate. He said Labour wouldn’t return to austerity in public spending but warned that he faced a difficult inheritance if he wins power.

“We know we can’t wave a magic wand and pretend that everything will be fixed overnight,” he said.

--With assistance from Irina Anghel and Alex Morales.

(Updates with revised estimate of revenue from closing carried interest loophole in 12th paragraph.)

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