Growing the economy will be Labour’s “defining mission”, Keir Starmer has said, as he promised not to “turn on the spending taps” if his party wins the next election.
The Labour leader pledged that increasing productivity would be his number one priority as he criticised the Tories for making people in the UK “worse off”.
The party leader said while wealth creation had not always been Labour’s “comfort zone” he would place it above all else.
Delivering a speech at the Resolution Foundation think tank, he said it was time for a “new economic consensus” with a “different model of growth, a different set of values, and a different analysis of the state and its role in the economy”.
He described that strategy as “securonomics”, a phrase coined by Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, who he said was his “favourite economist”.
Reeves, Labour’s shadow chancellor, said the phrase means putting “economic security” first rather than what Starmer described as “growth at any cost”.
The Labour leader, who is hoping to become the next prime minister, said government “can and must shape markets, not just submit to them”.
Likewise, it “can and must hold out a hand in partnership to business”.
Criticising the Conservative party’s time in government, he said the last 13 years have seen the UK diminished with public services struggling alongside the highest tax burden since the Second World War.
‘Labour won’t turn on the spending taps’
Starmer said Labour would be responsible with the economy, saying that “anyone who expects an incoming Labour Government to quickly turn on the spending taps is going to be disappointed”.
“Inflation, debt, taxes are now huge constraints,” he said. “Of course – we will make different choices.
“On the non-dom tax status – invested in cutting NHS waiting lists.
“On removing private schools tax breaks – invested in high-quality teaching and our children’s mental health.
“But at the same time, we will be ruthless when it comes to spending every pound wisely.”
He said he would instruct every member of his cabinet to “think carefully about how precious every pound is”.
He said: “There are millions of people in this country right now, who wake up in the morning and know the day will bring a fresh fight for every penny. Just like the last day.
“My sister is one of them. I will say to her – let’s go to the pub for lunch. And she will say, straight away – ‘I’ll make sandwiches’.”
‘Labour will offer a new deal for the public’
He pledged that a Labour government would “make work pay” and would end zero-hours contracts as well as fire and rehire.
He added: “Tory decline has been a disaster for the British people. Labour will offer a new deal for the public.
“Stronger growth. Rising incomes. Creating the wealth we need to fund our public services. That’s the direction we need. That’s my ambition for Britain.
“A chance to turn the page on a miserable chapter of decline. And with a new economic plan. With a new determination.
“With growth that will deliver the security working people need. We will walk down the hard road towards national renewal.
“A Britain building again, growing again, believing again. That we will get our future back.”
The speech comes a day after a column written by Starmer praised Margaret Thatcher as a leader who effected “meaningful change” as he launched a pitch to Conservative voters.
He said the former prime minister had let loose the UK’s “natural entrepreneurialism”.
The SNP, as well as some in the Labour Party, criticised Starmer for the comments.
Humza Yousaf attacked Sir Keir for the comments – which will be seen as an attempt to woo Conservative voters ahead of the next general election.
“What Thatcher did to mining and industrial communities was not ‘entrepreneurialism’, it was vandalism,” he said on X, formerly Twitter.
“Starmer praising Thatcher is an insult to those communities in Scotland, and across the UK, who still bear the scars of her disastrous policies.”
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