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British Labor launches race for power with pledge to 'create wealth'

British Labor launches race for power with pledge to 'create wealth'
British Labor launches race for power with pledge to 'create wealth'

 


Britain's Labor Party launched a “wealth creation manifesto” on Thursday, pledging to revive the economy if it wins power in next month's election after 14 years in opposition.

Labor has consistently trailed Rishi Sunak's Conservatives by around 20 points for almost two years, leading to speculation that its leader Keir Starmer will become the next prime minister.

“Wealth creation is our number one priority, economic growth is our core business,” Starmer, 61, said as he unveiled his center-left party’s government plan ahead of the July 4 vote.

The manifesto launch comes two days after the Conservatives promised voters more tax cuts, during a campaign where the affordability of the main parties' spending plans came under scrutiny.

Despite Labor's strong lead in the polls, Starmer is struggling to overcome persistent Conservative claims that his party is recklessly spending the public purse and raising personal taxes.

Starmer has ruled out raising VAT, sales tax, income tax rates and national insurance – which funds state healthcare, pensions and unemployment.

He says Labor will instead focus on boosting economic growth if they win.

He pledged to restore economic “stability” after the turbulence of recent years which saw inflation reach 11.1% in October 2022, its highest level in 40 years.

Starmer and likely Finance Minister Rachel Reeves appear to have little room for maneuver, however, with the economy stagnating in April after emerging from recession in the first quarter.

– No “magic wand” –

Economists, however, say the new government could gain some momentum from an expected drop in interest rates and inflation by the end of the year.

“We don't have a magic wand, but what we have, what this manifesto represents, is a credible long-term plan,” Starmer said in Manchester, northwest England. He pledged to end Tory “chaos” and “rebuild” Britain.

Many of Labor's manifesto policies have been trickled out to journalists for months, and Thursday's launch featured no surprises.

The playbook includes a new National Wealth Fund to invest in industries and a state-owned clean energy company.

Labor also promises to employ 6,500 new teachers and secure 40,000 new hospital appointments a week.

He plans to cap corporation tax at 25 percent, but aims to raise billions of pounds in extra revenue by cracking down on non-domiciled tax statuses while increasing levies on private schools and oil and gas profits .

As in 1997, when Tony Blair won a landslide victory after 18 years of Conservative rule, Starmer knows he must reassure a nervous electorate that Labor can deliver stability and economic competence.

– 'Pro-business' –

At the last election in 2019, his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn presented a radical program which included proposals to radically renationalise key industries and increase taxes on high earners.

Starmer took over after Labor was routed by Boris Johnson's Conservatives. He has moved the party back to a central, less threatening position, vowing that it is both “pro-business and pro-worker.”

The British have gone through a period of unprecedented political upheaval, with five Conservative prime ministers since 2010, and three in just four months in 2022.

This is largely due to Brexit, the country's tortuous exit from the European Union.

But there have also been self-inflicted wounds, like Liz Truss's short-lived tenure, when her unfunded tax cuts spooked markets and sent sterling tumbling.

One of Starmer's first tasks if he is in Downing Street on July 5 will be to prepare for a crucial NATO summit in Washington the following week and host a meeting of European leaders.

He said he would scrap the Conservatives' plan to deport failed asylum seekers to Rwanda and recognize Palestinian sovereignty as part of the peace process.

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