Economic growth is the only solution to Britain’s problems – and we will deliver it

Sir Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer

Everyone can see the next government faces huge decisions on the economy. For a long time now Britain has been on the wrong track. You can measure it in statistics. The highest tax burden in 70 years. Biggest slowdown in productivity in two centuries. But you can just as easily get on the road and speak to people in this election.

I hear the same story everywhere I go. People who say they’re working harder than ever, just to stand still. Who feel that our country isn’t just stuck, but going backwards. That the old story we still tell our children – “work hard and you can achieve anything” – just isn’t true anymore.

Sustained economic growth is the only remedy for this malaise. And yet when I say this, it frustrates some people.

Wanting growth is easier than getting it – I accept that critique. It needs a thought through, detailed plan of action. Alongside laserlike focus on delivery. This is what our manifesto offers.

Some people disagree with my belief that growth is the biggest challenge we face. For them, the debate should be about how you tax and spend wealth, not how you create it. In other words: how you slice the cake.

I accept it’s unusual for a Labour leader to put wealth creation front and centre. I also understand why there is an emphasis on tax and spend this election. After 14 years of next to no growth, to doggedly pursue it is almost a new concept.

Older versions of the Labour Party may have been more comfortable with the debate’s current terms. But not my Labour Party. Our manifesto is a plan for wealth creation – and I am proud of that. Indeed, as far as I’m concerned, making people better off is the whole point of politics.

It’s part of Labour’s purpose. Serving the interests of working people means understanding they want success more than state support. Yes this is about aspiration. I know our country is driven by it. Entrepreneurs. Parents working extra hours to give their children security. Young people striving for their first home.

But it is also about dignity. The Labour mission was built on the pride of working people earning a decent living for themselves. We will never turn our backs on people who are struggling. But handouts from the state do not nurture the same sense of self-reliant dignity as a fair wage.

These values have shaped every letter of our plan for growth. It’s why we will always put economic stability first. Millions of people in this country are struggling, frankly, because the Tories were not careful with taxpayers’ money. And yet their manifesto still contains unfunded spending commitments that could add an extra £4,800 on to an average mortgage.

In contrast, this changed Labour Party understands that every public pound is precious because it belongs to you. And that economic stability is the only foundation which allows us to keep mortgages, inflation and taxes low.

And make no mistake – we will fight to keep taxes low. We will not raise income tax, national insurance or VAT. That’s not a line for an election – it’s a manifesto commitment.

It goes back to those values. It isn’t fair for working people to lose more of their money in a cost of living crisis. For the failures of government to cost your pocket. Or choke your aspiration. That is an issue of conviction for me.

But it’s also an indication of how we plan to run the economy differently. Not just from the Labour of the past either, also from the Tories. Because what is true of people is also true of places – they want success more than state support.

For a long time now, including with the Tories failed levelling-up plans, our economy has been ambivalent about where growth comes from.

If it all comes from London and the South East, no matter because we can “level up”.

Now, nobody could walk around our country and deny how urgently we need to tackle regional inequality.

Part of which must always be through redistribution. That is a basic statement of fairness. Something all sides of politics have long agreed on.

Yet over time, redistribution seems to have also become our “one-word” plan for vast swathes of Britain. And that cannot continue. Growth and wealth creation must now come from every community. That is my number one mission.

Clearly, it is an enormous challenge. But in less than two weeks’ time, we can make a start. We can reform planning rules, so we start building the homes and infrastructure we need.

We can make work pay, so people have the wages and security they need. We can establish a new national wealth fund, to turbocharge private investment, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the industries of the future. And we can devolve economic power, so communities have more agency and control of growth in their area.

But change only comes if you vote for it. I’ve made tough choices to drag this Labour Party back to service. And I’m under no illusion that if we form the next government, I’ll be required to take more.

Tough choices being ducked for too long has held our country back. We cannot duck them any longer. I don’t accept the defeatist claim that this can’t be done. The entrepreneurs, parents taking extra hours and striving young professionals don’t accept defeat. And neither will my government. It is time to get Britain growing again.


Sir Keir Starmer is the leader of the Labour Party