Britain would pay a high price under Labour

Keir Starmer, Rachel Reeves and Angela Rayner
Keir Starmer, Rachel Reeves and Angela Rayner

At a rally in Essex on Thursday, Sir Keir Starmer set out his six pledges to the British public ahead of an election that could return a Labour government. Now we have found out just how much one could cost. Based on Treasury costings of 50 Labour policies, the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt warned that a Starmer administration would plunge Britain’s finances into a £38 billion black hole, suggesting that Sir Keir would need to raise taxes to fill the gap.

The true cost could well be even higher. Given Sir Keir’s inability to stick to his promises, it would be optimistic to assume he could stick to a budget any better. It certainly does not inspire confidence that the shadow environment secretary seems to be unclear about whether the party’s Great British Energy wheeze would cost £8 billion or £80 billion.

Sir Keir has, to date, benefited from the luxury of opposition. He has been able to make pledges with abandon, without really having to work out how to fund them. He seems to have spent the few tax rises he is willing to publicly commit to – including VAT on private school fees – many times over. This implies that a Starmer government would be forced to raise taxes significantly to meet its ambitions. Indeed, it would be more surprising if it did not: as the Chancellor noted, every Labour government since the 1970s has raised the tax burden.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, criticised the Conservatives for their own record on tax – and it would be hard to admit that it is an unblemished one. Mr Hunt has landed on a reasonable argument in the party’s defence, however. The Conservatives have raised taxation to pay for the consequences of a global pandemic and a European war. Mr Hunt and Rishi Sunak are insistent that they are working to bring the burden down again as quickly as possible.

For the Labour Party, however, raising taxes is in its DNA. It sees working families as little more than a cash machine, to be raided as it funds its utopian projects. It does not understand aspiration, and many of its MPs enjoy wallowing in the politics of envy. The financial security of British households would come second to net zero and the unions.

It has also revealed deficiencies in its approach to prioritising spending. Labour has failed to match the Conservatives’ commitment to raise defence expenditure to 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2030, and has now declined to say whether the Metropolitan Police would receive additional funding to deal with the shocking levels of crime in London.

It is a dispiriting summary of the price Britain would pay for a Starmer government: higher taxes for a more dangerous country.