Sir Keir Starmer banks on economic growth to rebuild Britain

Sir Keir Starmer has unveiled Labour’s election manifesto, promising to “rebuild Britain” by boosting economic growth. The Labour leader said the document – titled Change – would “turn the page decisively” on 14 years of Conservative government. The running theme is a bid to boost wealth creation through streamlining planning rules and increasing business investment.

It did not contain new policies beyond those already announced, and Sir Keir sought to make a virtue of the lack of policy fireworks, saying he was running “to be prime minister, not a candidate to run the circus. The Labour leader used the launch event in Manchester to showcase already-announced policies he hopes will tempt voters to return his party to power.

These include setting up a new state-owned energy investment and generation company, hiring more police officers and renationalising nearly all passenger rail. Sir Keir sought to draw a contrast with Labour’s last election manifesto in 2019, which contained policies such as giving workers a 10% stake in all large companies and free full-fibre broadband for all.

After his speech was briefly interrupted by heckling from a climate protester, he said: “We gave up on being a party of protest five years ago. The defining purpose of my Labour leadership has been to drag my party away from the dead end of gesture politics,” he added. We don’t have a magic wand. But what we do have, what this manifesto represents, is a credible long-term plan.

It says extra government borrowing would be limited to £3.5bn a year to fund its plan to invest in green energy projects. And in a bid to defuse Tory attacks, it has ruled out raising rates of income tax, National Insurance, or VAT, presented as a “tax lock” to voters. Trivial increases. It has also ruled out increasing the main rate of corporation tax, which companies pay on their profits, in an attempt to burnish its pro-business credentials.

It has not made the same commitment for capital gains tax, charged on profits from selling assets, saying instead its manifesto plans do not “require” a hike. Paul Johnson, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank, said it was “not a manifesto for those looking for big numbers”.

“The public service spending increases promised in the ‘costings’ table are tiny, going on trivial,” he said.
He added that Labour’s decision to sign up to fiscal rules limiting debt as a share of national income, and its scheduled borrowing for green projects, would leave “no room” for more spending than planned by the government currently.

The document also contained new detail of its plans to overhaul the House of Lords, specifying that peers over 80 will be told to step down. Plans to replace the chamber completely will, however, now be subject to consultation.

But it did not contain new details of its plans to overhaul the planning regime, which it has put front-and-centre of its plans to boost the economy, as well as a target to build 1.5m new homes in England over five years.
Already-announced plans in this area include streamlined rules for approving laboratories and digital infrastructure, and restoring housing need targets for councils scrapped by the government in late 2022.

Source: BBC

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