Sir Keir Starmer says 'wealth creation' is his top priority if Labour wins election

Sir Keir Starmer has said "wealth creation" is his top priority in an election pitch to the middle class and middle ground.

The Labour leader also unveiled the party's plan to get more people into work, insisting "those who can work, will work".

The "back to work plan" several proposed employment support and welfare benefits reforms aimed at increasing the employment rate from 75% to 80%.

It comes after Rishi Sunak pledged to give £20m each to 30 towns across the country, with the Conservatives saying local people in each area would decide how the money would be spent.

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In a statement Sir Keir said: "The first step of my Labour government will be to create economic stability, which means getting a grip of the spiralling welfare bill that's gone out of control under the Tories.

"We will set about, within days of a future government, reforming work support to get more people into work."

He also told The Times his "number one mission is wealth creation".

"I think you win from the centre ground, the centre ground is where most people are," he told the paper.

"As a nation, broadly speaking we're a pretty reasonable, tolerant bunch but we are in the centre ground of politics. People don't like the extremes of the right or the left.

"They are reasonably tolerant. They want themselves, their families and the country to improve and make progress."

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Labour unveils battle bus

Sir Keir joined shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and deputy leader Angela Rayner in unveiling the Labour battle bus this morning in Uxbridge, Boris Johnson's former constituency.

After being cleared of an investigation by Greater Manchester Police and HMRC Ms Rayner has said she is ready to "power up" as she sets off on a 5,000-mile journey to battleground seats across the country.

Tories pledge £20m each for 30 towns

Meanwhile, the Tories have said they would add 30 towns - many of which are based in the Midlands and the North - to their long-term plan for towns, increasing the number that will receive financial support to more than 100.

The prime minister said the "bold action" would "transform" the towns, as he claimed Labour's record in government "shows they don't care about towns - neglecting their needs, allowing them to decline and focusing instead on cities".

"Sir Keir Starmer has no plan to unlock opportunities in towns and would take us back to square one," he said.

"Building on our strong track record of levelling up in Teesside and the Midlands, we will go further across the country to build a secure future for our children and grandchildren."

Andrew Griffith, the science minister, clarified that each of the 30 towns will be handed £20m, rather than this being the total investment.

Asked by Sky News how far the cash will really go, he said: "It's £20m for each of those towns. The cost of this policy is £600m, it phases in over the next 10 years or so."

Mr Sunak will take his campaign to the North East today, heading to the so-called red wall after his campaign has so far focused on retaining the Tory vote.