LONDON — Keir Starmer will on Monday ask British voters to judge him on whether they “feel better off after five years of a Labour government” as he tries to flesh out the opposition party’s economic thinking ahead of the next election.
The Labour leader — who current polls suggest is on course to be the U.K.’s next prime minister — will join his Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and a host of business leaders Monday for a roundtable aimed at selling Labour’s promise to achieve the highest sustained growth in the G7 group of industrialized nations.
And he will insist that the U.K. economy does not have to lag behind Poland’s as some British commentators have predicted could happen by the end of the decade.
“The British people are falling behind while our European neighbors get richer, in the east as well as in countries like France and Germany,” Starmer will say, according to extracts released by the party overnight.
“I’m not comfortable with that. Not comfortable with a trajectory that will soon see Britain overtaken by Poland. Nor am I prepared to accept what the consequences of this failure would mean.”
The party has drawn up analysis based on World Bank data which says that, on current trajectories, per capita GDP in the U.K. will be some $600 behind that of Poland by 2030.
Labour has struggled to make a play on the economy since being ejected from office in 2010 in the wake of the global financial crisis. But the party senses a major opening after the short-lived Conservative administration of Liz Truss sparked market turmoil with a push for unfunded tax cuts. The International Monetary Fund has projected that Britain’s will be the only G7 economy to shrink in 2023.
Starmer will accuse the Conservatives of leaving the U.K. in a “low wage, high tax, doom-loop,” and call on his party to “be frank about the path of decline the Tories have set our country on.” Labour will, he is set to promise, “take on vested interests,” work to “shape markets” and shake up a planning system that currently favors “the already wealthy, not the new houses, wind farms and laboratories we need to create more wealth.”
The comments received a cautious welcome from some U.K. business leaders, with Carolyn Fairbairn, the former boss of lobby group the Confederation of Business Industry, saying that while Labour had “much heavy lifting to do,” the party’s pitch for a “true partnership with business to build predictable long-term policy, particularly in skills, education, innovation and infrastructure” marked “the right direction of travel.”
The governing Tories dismissed Starmer’s latest intervention, however, accusing Labour of flirting with higher inflation and taking potshots at its previous stint in office, which Conservative Chairman Greg Hands said had left public debt “spiraling.”
“Starmer’s Labour are too weak to stand up for the British people, let alone bring forward a credible plan for the economy,” he added.