Starmer outlines choice facing voters ahead of “fork in the road” Budget

Elliot Chappell

Keir Starmer is expected to set out the choice facing voters across the country as he describes the March Budget as a “fork in the road” and says the Tory ideology exposed during the pandemic has “failed the British people”.

In a speech on Thursday, he will outline his party’s vision for a “new chapter for Britain” beyond the Covid crisis and declare that the Tories in government can only deliver more of the same despite repeated promises of change.

“We can go back to the same insecure and unequal economy that has been so cruelly exposed by the virus, or we can seize this moment and go forward to a future that is going to look utterly unlike the past,” he will say.

Starmer will call on Rishi Sunak to reverse his planned cut to Universal Credit, provide funding to councils to avoid “Boris Johnson’s council tax bombshell” and extend the business rate holiday and the VAT cut for hospitality and leisure.

His speech follows the warning from Labour earlier this month that firms will be hit by a £50bn “bombshell” when April brings tax deferral costs and VAT rises alongside the end of the business rates holiday, furlough and other support.

The Labour leader is expected to announce new policies in his address on Thursday, aimed at providing long-term security to the economy and support for entrepreneurs and to offer people a “proper stake in Britain’s future”.

Stressing that under his leadership Labour will be financially responsible, Starmer will outline a “new partnership” between government and business that “tackles inequality, invests in the future and builds a more secure and prosperous economy”.

He will say that to “invest wisely and not to spend money we can’t afford” will be Labour’s guiding principles in government, but argue that “what is necessary and what is possible have changed” in light of the pandemic.

The opposition leader will tell those watching that people now expect more from the government, as they were after the Second World War, to “provide security and to build a better future for them and their families”.

People want a government that “knows the value of public services” and invests in skills, science, universities and manufacturing, the Labour leader will declare, and “whose driving mission it is to tackle inequalities from birth”.

“They want a government that can ensure people don’t have to leave their home town to have a chance of getting a good job or to leave university with crippling debt. That can build a new generation of affordable homes,” he will say.

“They want a government that can shape the future of work, harness the opportunities of automation and technology that will ensure care homes are places of dignity in retirement.

“They want a government that reflects our values on the global stage; and that puts tackling the climate emergency at the centre of everything we do.”

He will also use the speech to criticise the Tories on the their record over the past year, highlighting the decision to press ahead with Universal Credit cuts, the public sector pay freeze and their vote against free school meals.

He will condemn the approach taken by the government towards spending on outsourcing and procurement in the health crisis, echoing a speech by Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves earlier this month.

“If you can’t support three million self-employed people, but you can spray billions on contracts that don’t deliver for our NHS, you’re not going to be able to build the economy of the future,” the Labour leader will tell those watching.

Labour has criticised the lack of transparency around the contracting process and this week demanded that the Tories disclose details of meetings between companies and government ministers, MPs and special advisers relating to £2bn of contracts.

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