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UK election 2024: Starmer sets out Labour’s economy-focused campaign manifesto


Starmer is trying to preserve his party’s poll lead of more than 20 points over Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party, and publishing Labour’s manifesto without any major blow back is perhaps the last major stumbling block between him and 10 Downing Street. The document reiterated his party’s pledges not to increase any of income tax, VAT or national insurance, and also highlighted his plans to create a state-run clean energy company and reform planning rules.

“A manifesto for wealth creation, a plan to change,” Starmer said of his party’s pledges. “Today we can turn the page.”

The launch event was interrupted by a climate protester as Starmer began his speech, with the demonstrator swiftly removed.

His manifesto marked a clear break from Labour’s long-held image of being a “tax and spend” party – potentially alienating those on the left of the party – and Starmer said he would focus on tackling structural problems around planning and housing to drive private investment.

Britain’s Labour Party leader Keir Starmer poses for a photograph ahead of his party’s election manifesto launch in Manchester on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

Starmer has maintained Labour’s advantage in the three weeks since Sunak called a snap election, and late on Wednesday was buoyed by a solid performance at a Sky News leaders’ event in Grimsby. Both he and Sunak endured awkward moments, but a snap YouGov survey of viewers gave Starmer a 64-36 victory as the premier struggled to overcome criticism of the Tories’ record in office.

Starmer’s focus as Labour leader has been on rebuilding trust on the economy and wooing business after the socialist leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, who led the party to a historic election defeat in 2019. He’s had to bat away traditional Tory attacks that Labour would hike takes if it comes to power.

Both Starmer and Rachel Reeves, who will be Britain’s first female Chancellor of the Exchequer if Labour wins, have repeatedly said Labour has “no plans” to raise levies beyond what they’ve already announced.

Starmer said he would increase the tax take by more than 8 billion pounds, helped by a clamp down on tax avoidance and new measures targeting private schools, and individuals with non-domiciled tax status.

Labour’s manifesto also confirmed the pledge to close the loophole that allows private equity fund managers to pay capital-gains tax on their investment returns, rather than the higher rate of income tax. The party says the change would raise £440 million (US$560 million), and has committed to spending the revenue on recruiting additional mental health staff in the National Health Service.

Another Labour tax pledge is to increase stamp duty on purchases of residential property by overseas buyers by 1 per cent, which it says would raise £20 million.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s and Conservative Party trails the Labour Party by about 20 points in the polls ahead of next month’s election. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Pool

The Labour manifesto comes just two days after Sunak proposed 17 billion pounds (US$22 billion) of tax cuts in his Conservative manifesto, something that was dismissed by Labour as a “desperate, unfunded wish list”.

Also in the Labour manifesto was a pledge to stop the next generation from legally buying cigarettes.

“We must take preventative public health measures to tackle the biggest killers and support people to live longer, healthier lives. That starts with smoking,” the manifesto document said.

“Labour will ensure the next generation can never legally buy cigarettes … Labour will ban vapes from being branded and advertised to appeal to children to stop the next generation from becoming hooked on nicotine.”

Additional reporting by dpa



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