Keir Starmer promises 'nothing in our manifesto requires tax rises' when pressed on spending plans

ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana interviewed the Labour leader after his first speech of the campaign

In today's keynote speech, Keir Starmer seemed to acknowledge a potential Labour weakness.

He argued that whatever the polls say, there are still "countless people" who have not decided how they will vote.

The Labour leader said many were fed up with "failure, chaos and division" but still had questions about Labour.

A year ago party strategists told Starmer that he must now answer the question "if not them, why us?"

Was today's speech an admission that the party still has some way to go in convincing people on that front?

Watch our full interview with Keir Starmer at the start of his first full week on campaign

Starmer insisted that he could prove that he had changed his party and that his agenda would always be "country first, party second".

That argument itself brings with it questions of trust given his previous decision to serve in Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet, but what about now - can he convince voters that he is the change they want?

One challenge that I put to Starmer in an interview after the speech was that he had set out big ambitions around housebuilding, renewable energy and the NHS but was ruling out increasing two of the big tax rates - National insurance and Income tax.

'Country first, party second': Starmer promises to 'fight' for working people, protect national security and restore trust in politics in his first speech since the General Election was called

Surely that tied his hands?

"I think that working people have been overburdened with tax increases over the last few years.

"What you've seen under this government is every time they need to raise money, they've gone to the same place, which is the pockets of working people. And that's why we've been absolutely clear about not imposing even more of a burden."

The difficulty for Labour is that both the IMF and IFS argue that without significant tax increases a new government would be forced to cut spending.

Starmer insisted that his party had found some money for the NHS and teachers but admitted that everything else was reliant on economic change.

"We are going to grow the economy. That has been the missing ingredient now for 14 years."

Pushed on whether he was ruling out a VAT increase Starmer added: "Well, we've drawn up our plans. They'll be in our manifesto and you will soon see them.

But I can tell you this in advance that none of the plans that we've drawn up, nothing in our manifesto is going to require us to raise taxes.

"We are going to put as our number one mission growing the economy."

It wasn't clear if no tax increases also means unlocking income tax threshold change.

Meanwhile - Starmer defended Gaza protestors after Nigel Farage claimed too many young people didn't represent British values.

Pushed on what he meant Farage admitted he meant both pro-Palestine protesters and Muslims.

Do you believe that young Muslims and others protesting what is happening in Gaza do not represent British values? I asked him.

"No. I think they've got a right to express their views. Obviously, there are limits to that in terms of the behaviour on any protest.

"But I fundamentally believe that everybody in this country, whatever their view, should have the right to express them and to protest.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks to party supporters after making his first keynote speech. Credit: PA

"Obviously, I don't want to see some of the extremes that have tipped into antisemitism, but I support the right of protestors to protest whatever their cause. I think that's fundamental, has been for a long time in this country and needs to be protected."

Starmer also attacked the Tory policy for compulsory national service deriding it as a "teenage Dad's army".

"Yes, I do think that we should support our armed forces, but [this is a] desperate policy that's not thought through."

Mocking Rishi Sunak's rain-soaked election announcement - Starmer added: "I would've had an umbrella.

"I think almost everybody in the country would've had an umbrella. A plan would've been to have an umbrella."

Have you heard our new podcast Talking Politics? Every week Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…