Britain’s Labour Party pledges ‘wealth creation’ as it targets landslide election victory

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Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks during the launch of Labour’s general election manifesto on June 13, 2024 in Manchester, United Kingdom. Labour is consistently leading the polls by over 20 points, according to the latest YouGov data.

Anthony Devlin | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON — Britain’s left-leaning Labour Party, considered the frontrunner in the upcoming national election, on Thursday said it would be “pro-business” and prioritize “wealth creation” as it released its manifesto.

The party’s flagship pledges include the creation of a new publicly owned energy company, a ban on awarding new North Sea oil and gas licenses, reducing patient waiting times in the strained National Health Service and renationalizing most passenger rail services.

“Economic growth and social justice must go hand in hand,” Starmer said during the headline speech Thursday, calling it a “manifesto for wealth creation, a plan to change Britain.”

Labour policies are “fully costed,” Starmer said, adding, “You can’t play fast and loose with the public finances.”

The majority of the manifesto has been previously flagged by the party, including promises to increase windfall taxes on oil and gas firms, remove tax breaks for independent schools, and close what has been described as a “tax loophole” for private equity investors.

The majority of the manifesto had been previously flagged by the party. It specified plans to raise £7.35 billion ($9.4 billion) by 2028-29 to fund public services through closing further tax loopholes on so-called non-domiciled individuals and reducing tax avoidance, removing tax breaks for independent schools, closing what has been described as a “tax loophole” for private equity investors and raising taxes on the purchases of residential properties by non-U.K. residents. It said it would make additional green investments through a “time-limited windfall tax” on oil and gas firms.

The party also confirmed it would recognize a Palestinian state, calling statehood “the inalienable right of the Palestinian people.” The pledge comes after months of division within the party over its response to the Israel-Hamas war.

“We cannot afford five more years of high tax, low growth and broken Tory promises,” Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner said at a launch event in Manchester, referring to the incumbent Conservative Party. The Conservatives argue Labour lack a clear plan for the nation and will raise taxes on working families.

“When we deliver growth, it will be in every corner of the country.”

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The 135-page manifesto’s section on growth said this will be achieved through economic stability, reforming planning rules to build 1.5 million new homes and introducing a new industrial strategy. It also said it would create a £7.3 billion ($9.32 billion) National Wealth Fund to invest in areas including the U.K. steel and automotive industries, carbon capture technology and gigafactories.

The U.K. fell into a shallow recession in the latter half of last year as households and businesses faced severe inflation and tighter financial conditions, though posted 0.6% growth in the first quarter of 2024.

In his speech declaring the July 4 vote, U.K. prime minister and leader of the Conservatives, Rishi Sunak said inflation had now been tamed and that his government had cut workers’ taxes, increased the state pension and reduced taxes on investment.

The second speaker at the Labour event was Richard Walker,  executive chairman of British grocery chain Iceland, who said only Labour could change the U.K.’s “trajectory of dismal economic performance.”

“Wealth creation is my number one priority,” Labour leader Keir Starmer said on social platform X on Thursday. “My changed Labour Party has a plan for growth. We are pro-business and pro-worker.”

Tax row

In a debate earlier this month, Starmer vowed not to raise either value-added tax (VAT) or National Insurance, a general tax on workers, as did Sunak.

Controversy followed that debate over a claim by Sunak that Labour’s policies would amount to a £2,000 ($2,556) tax rise per household over the next Parliament. Starmer called the claim “rubbish” and said it was based on “made-up Labour policies.”

Think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies has accused both party leaders of failing to be transparent about where they would cut public spending if they are to maintain their stated commitment to reduce U.K. net debt.

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The Conservatives on Tuesday released their own manifesto, with pledges to cut 2 pence off National Insurance, introduce mandatory national service, halve migration and introduce a program to help first-time property buyers.

Polls have for several years pointed to a substantial Labour victory over the Conservatives, who have been in power for 14 years. National security is another area on which the parties have traded barbs, with Defense Minister Grant Shapps claiming Labour would “turn the U.K. into an undefended target.” Labour has said it will “maintain an unshakeable commitment to NATO and our nuclear deterrent, and put a renewed focus on improving morale in our armed forces.”

Labour’s shift to the political center under Starmer has garnered the approval of business leaders and financial markets, though caused controversy and division with the left of the party.

Major trade union Unite has refused to back Labour’s manifesto over concerns it fails to protect oil and gas industry workers’ rights and jobs, according to a BBC report.

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