Despite increasing pressure from unions, including the party’s largest donor, Sir Keir Starmer has refused to commit to additional expenditure under a Labour government despite requests for him to support more of their policy priorities.
The party’s emphasis on fiscal restraint has been defended by the Labour leader once again, but he added that this won’t prevent the party from enacting “bold” reforms.
Sir Keir stated that he would maintain the Conservatives’ two-child benefit cap and that he would wait to reveal Labour’s policy on housing allowance, which has been frozen since 2020, until closer to the general election.
He responded to a question on whether Labour will increase spending on public services by saying: “A Labour government will always want to invest in its public services.”
Asked whether he is relaxed about being called a “fiscal conservative”, he replied: “I don’t mind what label people put on me. I do want to make my argument.
“My argument is this: What was absolutely plain from last year’s mini-budget is if you lose control of the economy it’s working people who pay.”
It happened at the same time when Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, declared that it is no longer possible to “spot the difference” between the two major parties.
“He (Sir Keir) won’t dare mention the word ‘socialism’,” he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday.
“I want to hear that word mentioned frequently, and I want to see a redistribution of wealth in our society, because there are a lot of very wealthy people and there are too many very poor people.
“And now people in the middle are being squeezed as well, with rents and mortgages skyrocketing. He doesn’t seem to be on the side of the people of this country.”
The leader of Unite, Sharon Graham, also put pressure on Labour over the weekend, warning that the party will not be given a “blank cheque” and urging it to be “bolder.”
According to the BBC, the union, which is Labour’s largest financial supporter and the second-largest organisation in the UK, wants the renationalization of steel and energy businesses to be among the top priorities for the party.
In an effort to persuade people that Labour can handle the economy, Sir Keir has been clear about emphasising “financial responsibility” over careless spending.
However, he asserted on Sunday that this would not stop the party from enacting audacious reforms, such as those to the planning system.
“I’m not going to put an arbitrary figure on it but we need hundreds of thousands of more houses. I won’t shy away from it,” he told the BBC.
Sir Keir also denied that party leaders had spoken with representatives of the environmental advocacy group Just Stop Oil, with which it shares a donor.
He called the rumours that Labour is talking to the activists “nonsense” and said that everyone has the right to demonstrate, but that right is not unqualified.