Starmer: I’m prepared to make enemies on the economy

I’m prepared to make enemies to grow the economy, says Starmer

2 hours ago

By Jennifer McKiernan, @_JennyMcKiernanPolitical reporter, BBC News

BBCGrowth is the lever, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the BBC’s Nick Robinson

Sir Keir Starmer has said he’s prepared to make enemies to grow the economy, including driving through contentious planning applications.

In the latest in a series of BBC Panorama interviews with the party leaders, the Labour leader denied wanting to wave a “magic wand” to prevent either tax rises or public spending cuts, to deliver on his election promises.

Sir Keir also told Nick Robinson he was “not hostile” to people who used private healthcare, and ruled out rejoining the European Union.

Meanwhile, speaking to journalists at the G7 summit in Italy, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “going to fight for every single vote until the last day”.

Asked why he thought opinion polls were suggesting some Conservative voters were turning to Reform UK, Mr Sunak said “we’re only halfway through this campaign”.

He also repeated his insistence that “the Conservatives had a “tax-cutting manifesto” whereas Labour was “going to put your taxes up”.

Earlier this week at Labour’s manifesto launch, Sir Keir said his was the party of economic growth and would boost wealth creation.

Nick Robinson suggested the party was trying to disguise an £18bn hole in Treasury funds – equivalent to 10% of the NHS budget – which would need to be filled either by tax rises or spending cuts to public services.

However, Sir Keir said he rejected the choice was simply being “boxed in” between tax and spend because there was another lever, which he said was growth.

“My manifesto is about wealth creation,” he said. “This is a party of wealth creation, of growth.

“Therefore this boxing in that everybody is trying to do… that the only levers available to a Labour government or a Labour prime minister is to put up tax or pull down spending – I reject that – growth is the lever that I intend to pull.”

Asked if he was trying to “wave the magic wand of growth”, Sir Keir said “it’s not a wand, it’s a plan” and outlined how Labour was focused on how to get rid of blocks to business needs that were preventing economic growth.

The Labour leader gave the example of a wind turbine that could be built in two years but would instead be held up by the planning process for five years – suggesting he would be willing to override objections to new developments.

When Nick Robinson asked if he was prepared to make enemies in order to drive economic growth, Sir Keir replied: “Yes – we’re going to have to be tough.

“We’re going to have to change the way things are done.”

Keir Starmer says he’s ‘prepared to make enemies’ to grow economy

Following the first leaders’ debate, where Sir Keir said he would not use private healthcare himself under any circumstances, Mr Robinson suggested there was some concern the Labour leader thought people who did were “queue jumpers”.

“I’m not hostile in the slightest,” Sir Keir said. “I completely understand why people would go private… because they wanted to get an operation more quickly or get back to work or something else.”

But he defended the NHS as the best performer on acute care saying it was “the very best place to be” for the treatment of life-threatening illness, adding that private hospitals “refer into the NHS for acute care” for that reason.

On Brexit, Sir Keir was pressed on whether he wanted to re-join the European Union having campaigned for Remain and also calling for the option of a second referendum as Shadow Brexit Secretary, before ruling out a re-entry last year.

The Labour leader ruled out re-joining, saying he respected the vote and that membership of the EU was “not a silver bullet”.

The post-Brexit trade deals were “botched”, he said, and Labour would negotiate a better Brexit trade deal if it wins 4 July’s general election, but many issues around growth could be fixed without undoing Brexit.

“I do think we can do better than the botched deal that we’ve got under Boris Johnson,” he said. “I think every business thinks that.”

He added: “If you look at the problems for growth over the last 14 years, they were there, or many of them were there, before Brexit, so the idea that the sort of single silver bullet is simply the relationship with the EU is not something I accept.”

At the G7, Mr Sunak said there was a clear choice between the two parties and he would “continue fighting very hard to make sure everyone understands the choice that’s ahead of them”.

He claimed that electing Labour would give Sir Keir “a blank cheque” to hike taxes, whereas, if the Tories were re-elected, “we will be able to cut taxes for people at every stage of their lives”.

Turning to the single opinion poll which put Reform ahead of the Conservatives, the Prime Minister said the only poll that mattered was the one on July 4th. Other opinion polls have put the Tories ahead of Nigel Farage’s party.

Mr Sunak also pledged to stay on as an MP for a full five-year parliamentary term even if the Conservatives lost on 4 July.

The BBC is interviewing all the major party leaders in the run-up to the election in The Panorama Interviews with Nick Robinson. You can watch the interview with Sir Keir Starmer at 19:30 on BBC One or BBC iPlayer.

Keir StarmerGeneral election 2024

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