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Starmer suggests no tax cuts for two years under Labour without economic growth

Labour leader says growth must come first, and concedes his £28bn green energy investment could shrink

Adam Forrest
Political Correspondent
Friday 05 January 2024 11:40 GMT
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Starmer suggests no tax cuts for two years under Labour without economic growth

A Labour government may not be able to cut personal taxes for two years without healthier economic growth, Keir Starmer has suggested.

The Labour leader said on Friday he wanted to “lower the tax burden on working people” – but could not repeat Liz Truss’ mistake of unfunded promises.

It opens up a dividing line with Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives, after the PM pledged to offer more personal tax cuts in the run-up to the 2024 general election.

“I do want to see a lower tax burden on working people … I do want to do that,” Sir Keir told an LBC radio phone-in – saying the way to cut taxes was to “grow the economy”.

“What I’m not going to do is make unfunded, unaffordable promised that I can’t keep. That’s what Liz Truss did … The economy crashed and people are still paying the price.”

Speaking to Sky News on Thursday, Sir Keir refused to say if he would want to cut taxes within his first two years in office.

“Of course, I want working people to pay less tax, to have less of a burden. But we’ve got to get our economy working. And I think everybody understands that,” Starmer told the broadcaster.

And the Labour leader told reporters that “the first lever that we look for is the growth lever”, adding: “Before we even get to the question of tax, we’ve got to deal with the economy.”

Keir Starmer says he wants to get tax burden down on LBC phone-in (PA)

It comes as Labour made the audacious move of taking out anti-government tax adverts on the ConservativeHome website – the “bible” for the Tory grassroots.

Labour’s “Rishi’s raw deal” posters highlight that for every £10 paid in tax they will only be getting £2 back because of frozen thresholds.

Meanwhile, Sir Keir gave his strongest signal yet that he will get behind the legalisation of assisted dying if he becomes prime minister.

“I totally feel that we ought to actually change the law … Obviously that change has to be very carefully crafted,” he told the LBC phone-in – before saying would be “open to making time” for a free vote in parliament.

Asked if he would like personally vote to allow assisted dying, Sir Keir said he would back it “subject to it being the right change”.

Sir Keir also conceded his planned £28bn-a-year green energy investment could shrink depending on economic conditions – saying it remained only a “confident ambition” and would be subject to strict fiscal rules.

The Labour leader told LBC that the green spending will be “ramped up” in second half of parliament – but “in the end the fiscal rule comes first”. He added: “The world can change … It’s a confident ambition.”

Sir Keir said criticised health secretary Victoria Atkins for demanding that junior doctor strikes called off before entering talks. “I would just say, get in the room and get on with it,” said the Labour leader.

And the Labour leader said that UK police should be willing to examine any allegations made against Prince Andrew.

The Duke of York has been reported to the police by the campaign group Republic after allegations of sexual assault resurfaced in unsealed court documents relating to Jeffrey Epstein. Andrew has denied any wrong doing.

Asked if police should investigate, Sir Keir said: “Wherever there’s a complaint made, it’s inevitable that it should be looked at. We have to start with the victims here, and look at what allegations have been made.”

He added: “I’ve seen the headlines on this, not the detail, but frankly whoever it is, where there are allegations, credible allegations made, then of course they should be looked at.”

On Thursday Sir Keir claimed Mr Sunak was trying to “squat” at No 10 for as long as possible, after the PM rejected a spring election and said he wanted to wait until the second half of the year.

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