Keir Starmer fails to commit to cutting tax despite previous attack on Conservatives

Sir Keir Starmer said that if he was prime minister - "growth" would be the priority Credit: PA

Keir Starmer today failed to commit to cutting tax by unfreezing income tax thresholds if he wins power despite attacking the Conservative government for overseeing the highest tax burden since World War II.

After delivering a speech to mark the start of election year, ITV News asked the Labour leader if he would make the pledge given that he has slammed the Tories for their tax policies.

His party has also criticised the threshold freeze, calling it a "stealth tax".

But Mr Starmer said that if he was prime minister "growth" would be the priority, suggesting he would be cautious on big tax cuts because of the impact of Liz Truss's tax-cutting mini budget on the economy

Afterwards, I pressed the Labour leader further in an interview, pointing out that his Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has accused ministers of acting like "pick-pockets" with this policy.

If he sees the policy as stealing from voters - why won't he reverse it, I asked. 

"We have said that the first thing we need to do is start economic growth in this country to make sure we've got more money coming in. 

"When it comes to tax cuts, obviously we've set out areas where we will change tax, whether that's VT on private schools, non dorm status, or the loopholes that we've got. But any tax issue has to be fair and affordable, and they have smashed the economy... Liz Truss took a sledgehammer to our economy and people are paying the price."

The comments come despite reports that Ms Reeves is weighing up the possibility of personal tax cuts. 

In his speech, Mr Starmer argued that the Tories were wrong to still think of the economy as their "comfort zone".

"Let me tell you, what use to be their strength is now their weakness," he argued. 

He added that Labour wanted to tackle "understandable despair".

Later, I asked if that demanded a more positive take on the situation in Britain, pointing out that a year ago today the PM promised to halve inflation - and it has happened. 

Would he applaud Rishi Sunak for that? 

"No, because he claimed that inflation going up was nothing to do with him. And now he claims inflation coming down is everything to do with him. I don't think anybody is fooled by that," he said.

"And the problem with that is that the distance between the prime minister's words and the lived reality of the vast majority of people in this country who know that their bills are still going up, who know their mortgages are still going up, they're still struggling with the cost of living crisis."

ITV News' Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana interviews Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hinted the general election will be held in the second half of the year

Asked about whether he would offer junior doctors more money to stop the strikes, Mr Starmer argued that the government needed to stop "posturing" and get in the room if there was a deal to be offered.

"The government is hinting that there's an agreement to be had, but it's actually arguing about who goes into the room first to restart the discussions. That is abject irresponsibility, when you look at the very many people impacted by this strike."

I also asked about the suggestion he has watered down plans to spend £28 billion a year on green technology by only reaching that level later in a parliament and if the fiscal rules allow it.

I asked about a comment in the speech that every £1 of government investment would trigger £3 of private investment. Did that mean he was talking about only £7 billion of public money - put next to £21 billion of private? 

"No, no, no... Subject to our fiscal rules - that is the money a government will put in. We want to trigger three times [that]."

Asked about voters lack of enthusiasm for him after a YouGov poll suggested he was less popular than Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, he said he didn't look at polls, but he did look at byelection results - and took heart in big wins in Tory seats. 

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