Thursday, May 30, 2024

Keir Starmer: Major UK business chiefs back Labour leader

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Keir Starmer has secured the backing of top business leaders as the Boots boss and the chief executive of housing developer Thakeham endorsed his party today.

Keir Starmer has secured the backing of top business leaders, with the Boots boss and chief executive of housing developer Thakeham endorsing his party today.

Their support was unveiled at a rally-style campaign event which saw the Labour leader and his shadow cabinet announce his six pledges which they call their “first steps for change”.

The opposition says it will aim to deliver economic stability, cut NHS waiting times, launch a new border security command, set up publicly-owned energy firm Great British Energy, crack down on antisocial behaviour and recruit 6,500 new teachers.

Speaking in Essex, Starmer attacked former Prime Minister Liz Truss and said she crashed the economy with her mini-budget in 2022.

“I’m not prepared to let an incoming Labour government ever do that kind of damage to working people,” he told the audience.

And he claimed Rishi Sunak had shown he had not “learnt the lessons” by announcing he would abolish national insurance, describing the move as “a £46bn unfunded tax cut”.

He added: “That’s why I can hardly believe I’m saying this: stability is change, and that’s why it has to be our first step.”

Business voices also lent their support to the Labour leader at the event in Purfleet, Essex.

Rob Boughton, chief executive of Thakeham Homes, a house building firm in the south east, told the audience he had recently been visited by shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and deputy leader Angela Rayner and was “struck by how much they understood the housing crisis.”

Boughton said: “I support Rachel’s ambition to grow the economy and I’m pleased to see Labour have put so much weight on economic growth stability which is so crucial so businesses can plan ahead.”

He added: “I know [the public] want to see more quality, sustainable and affordable homes across the country. 

“I welcome the forward planning. Housebuilders and businesses more widely will be able to plan for the future if there is an industrial strategy and clear consistent direction.”

Boughton, who according to the Times donated nearly £1m to the Tories since 2017 but was angry over housebuilding targets being dropped, welcomed Labour’s plans to reform planning and keep taxes low.

Boots managing director Sebastian James also appeared in a video at the event, in which he said: “For me, first and foremost it’s stability. A stable economy provides the right platform for sustainable economic growth and it’s that real focus on economic growth that is going to be so important for the next few years.”

He added: “We need an industrial strategy that helps us plan for the long-term, helps us to anticipate changing landscapes, emerging sectors, new skills, new technologies.

“Our customers tell us every single day that [cost of living] pressures remain. We of course welcome sensible fiscal measures to help put more money into people’s pockets and help grow the economy, and that’s what I hope is going to happen.”

While Reeves – who spoke at the event alongside Starmer, Rayner, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, shadow net zero secretary Ed Miliband, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, and shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson – said Labour is “ready to serve, ready to lead and ready to rebuild Britain”.

She said: “Bringing back growth will require tough choices. It will take hard work. A decade of national renewal.”

But Richard Holden, Conservative Party chairman, said: “Today’s speech was devoid of any plan for Britain. 

“Sir Keir Starmer is a serial promise breaker who doesn’t have the courage or conviction to stick to a single pledge he has ever made.

“Just look at his last pledge card, which he abandoned the second he got the chance. His unfunded spending, higher taxes and amnesty for illegal migrants would take Britain back to square one.”

He added: “Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives are sticking with the plan to build a brighter future for British families, with inflation down from 11.1 per cent to 3.2 per cent, the economy growing and £900 back in hard-working people’s pockets – as well as a fair immigration system with boat crossings down.”

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