Starmer promises ‘stability over chaos’ with cautious manifesto

Starmer promises ‘stability over chaos’ with cautious manifesto

Sir Keir Starmer said Labour had a plan to turn the country around after 14 years of Tory “chaos” but cautioned that there would be “no quick fix” if he is handed the keys to No 10 by voters on July 4.

Launching a manifesto which contained no new policy announcements, Sir Keir denied he was being overly cautious in his efforts to put his party back in power for the first time since 2010.

Repeatedly stressing how he had changed Labour since taking over from Jeremy Corbyn, Sir Keir said he was now offering a “serious plan for the future of our country”.

The manifesto focused on a goal of generating economic growth and making Labour the “party of wealth creation”.

But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the Labour plan would result in “the highest taxes in history”.

Sir Keir warned that there was no “magic wand” and the problems an incoming Labour administration would inherit will not “disappear overnight”.

He said: “We must rebuild our country. It will not be easy. Not only because there is no quick fix to the mess the Conservatives have made.

“But also, because their failures have sapped our collective confidence that Britain can still achieve great things.”

Sir Keir rejected that defeatism, insisting that there was a brighter future: “A new Britain, where wealth is created in every community.”

But he said too many communities were currently “disregarded as sources of dynamism” due to “the toxic idea that economic growth is something that the few hand down to the many”.

“Today, we turn the page on that forever.”

He promised “stability over chaos, long-term over short-term, an end to the desperate era of gestures and gimmicks and a return to the serious business of rebuilding our country”.

Sir Keir’s manifesto launch speech was interrupted by heckling from a climate protester, but he shot back: “We gave up on being a party of protest five years ago, we want to be a party in power.”

In his manifesto foreword, Sir Keir who took over following the 2019 electoral mauling the party suffered, said: “The defining purpose of my Labour leadership has been to drag my party away from the dead end of gesture politics and return it once more to the service of working people.”

The manifesto:

– Spells out Labour’s plans to raise £7 billion in taxes.

– Some £5.2 billion would come from closing loopholes for non-domiciled people and cracking down on tax avoidance schemes.

POLITICS Election Polls
(PA Graphics)

– £1.5 billion would come from imposing VAT and business rates on private schools, with the rest from closing a carried interest loophole and increasing stamp duty on purchases of residential property by non-UK residents by 1%.

– Confirmed Labour’s pledge not to raise income tax, VAT or national insurance and to cap corporation tax at its current 25% rate.

– Promised legislation to remove the right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords and confirmed plans to enforce retirement from the upper chamber at 80.

– Pledged to build 1.5 million new homes and reform the planning system which acts as a “major brake on economic growth”.

– Restated Labour’s plan to create state-owned clean energy generation firm Great British Energy, backed by £8.3 billion over the course of the parliament.

–  Said legislation for the so-called New Deal for Working People, including moves to ban “exploitative” zero-hours contracts would be introduced in the first 100 days of a Labour government.

Sir Keir was challenged about the lack of eye-catching new policies and whether he was being careful to do nothing that might dent his 20-point poll lead – the so-called “Ming vase” strategy.

Acknowledging the absence of a “rabbit out of the hat” in the policy document, Sir Keir said “If you want politics as pantomime, I hear Clacton is nice this time of year.”

The Essex seat is where Reform UK leader Nigel Farage is campaigning to become an MP.

Asked whether it was a “Captain Caution” manifesto, he said: “It is a serious plan for the future of our country.”

He added: “I’m not going to do what Rishi Sunak does, which is offer things that he can’t deliver because they’re unfunded.

“People have had too much of that, they’re fed up with that.”

General Election campaign 2024
The Labour Party’s manifesto during the launch event (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt attacked the plans, labelling it a “tax trap manifesto”.

“Under Labour’s published plans, taxes will rise to levels never before seen in this country,” he said, before claiming that further hikes could be needed.

“They are refusing to rule out taxing your job, your home, your pension, your car, your business and they think they can get away with it without anyone holding them to account.

“Be under no illusion, from cradle to grave you will pay more taxes under Labour.”

The manifesto was also criticised from the left, with the Momentum campaign group saying the commitments “fall short of what is needed”, arguing that measures to scrap the two-child benefit limit and renationalise the water industry should have been included.

Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite union which declined to back the manifesto during the drafting process, said: “Whilst we all want growth and Labour’s proposed changes may move the dial somewhat – that alone is not likely to be enough.”

Unite had previously accused the party of weakening its package of workers’ rights

Sir Keir also faced questions on whether he was watering down a proposed ban on former ministers lobbying government for five years after leaving office – the manifesto only commits to “enforcing restrictions on ministers lobbying for the companies they used to regulate, with meaningful sanctions for breaching the rules”.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said the “trivial” tax and spending increases did not address the looming squeeze on public finances current forecasts implied.

IFS director Paul Johnson said “delivering genuine change” would require “putting actual resources on the table”.

“Labour’s manifesto offers no indication that there is a plan for where the money would come from to finance this,” he said.