The Labour leader is today (25 September) speaking at the party’s annual conference about how he will tackle the cost of living crisis, and has announced plans to end the UK’s dependence on fossil fuels. Instead, he said, all of the country’s electricity would be generated by renewable and nuclear energy by 2030.
According to Labour, the plan would save UK households a total of £93 billion over the rest of the decade - or an average saving of £475 for each household every year. Mr Starmer said it would also free the UK from being “exposed to dictators” after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine led to the current spike in global gas prices.
Their mini budget included a reversal of the National Insurance hike, which the Treasury estimates will give workers an extra £330 a year in take-home pay, and a cut to stamp duty, which has reduced the amount of tax people pay when buying property or land in England and Northern Ireland. Mr Kwarteng also once again went over the Government’s freezing of the energy price cap at £2,500, in a move which will reportedly save the average household £1,000 a year.
But Mr Starmer said the tax cuts only benefit the rich - and leave poorer households with less support. He said: “The British people are sick and tired of rocketing energy bills and our energy system being exposed to dictators. They want long-term solutions to cut bills for good.”
The Holborn and St Pancras MP continued: “There’s a change in the air. There’s an atmosphere, there’s a sense that Labour is ready to deliver. And don’t we need change after 12 years of this shower, 12 years of failure under this government, wages stagnant for 10 years, public services on their knees?”
Labour’s alternative to the Government’s mini-budget is a clear focus on green energy. Mr Starmer pledged to double the amount of onshore wind, triple solar energy, and more than quadruple offshore wind power by 2030, according to details announced in The Observer ahead of the party’s annual conference.
The party claims that the creation of a net zero carbon self-sufficient electricity network would lead to permanently lower energy bills and independence from nations such as Russia. It could also create half a million jobs and make the UK the first country to have a zero-emission power system.
There is no doubt then that the Chancellor’s mini budget will be perhaps the main battle point for the next general election, with Mr Starmer telling supporters: “I didn’t agree with almost anything he said in that financial statement yesterday apart from his opening sentence, when he said there’s a ‘vicious cycle of stagnation’.
“He’s right about that and it’s their vicious cycle of stagnation. That is the verdict on 12 years of Tory government, a vicious cycle of stagnation and we need to hang that around their necks.”
He also said the Government’s “driving ideology” is now to “make the rich richer and do nothing for working people”, remarking: “If you earn a million pounds, yesterday, you got a £55,000 pounds tax cut, enough to pay for a nurse. It’s not trickle down, it’s taking the piss.”
The statement was a reference to the Chancellor’s announcement of income tax cuts. Plans to cut the basic rate of income tax to 19p in every £1 have been brought forward, reportedly giving 31 million people £170 more a year. But the Government has also abolished the top rate of income tax, a move which will benefit those on the highest salaries.
Mr Starmer today (25 September) confirmed Labour’s opposition to the removal of the top rate, telling the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: “I do not think that the choice to have tax cuts for those that are earning hundreds of thousands of pounds is the right choice when our economy is struggling the way it is, working people are struggling in the way they are … that is the wrong choice.” He also called the Government’s economic policies “wrong-headed”.
Ahead of the start of the conference, Mr Starmer also addressed the ongoing strikes and claimed he would lead the “most pro-trade union Labour government you have ever seen”. He then promised voters a Green Paper on workplace rights within 100 days of an election victory.
This may come as a surprise to some, as the Labour leader previously clashed with union chiefs over his refusal to offer complete support for the huge wave of strikes over the summer, telling MPs that those in Government should not attend picket lines.
At the time, a spokesperson for Aslef, (one of the rail unions protesting over pay and working conditions), told NationalWorld: “The Labour Party was forged in the labour movement. So it’s a really odd suggestion for any Labour Party leader to suggest that a Labour MP should not attend a picket line or support industrial action by hard-pressed working people… during a cost of living crisis.”
Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite union, told the BBC the Labour leader should “be bolder” in his economic policy and not “stand still” in order to win power.
But Mr Starmer’s energy plan was welcomed by environmental group Greenpeace UK, whose head of politics Rebecca Newsom said: “The only way out of this mess is a moonshot mission to roll out a renewables-based energy system that can lower bills, cut emissions, create jobs and break our dependence on gas markets and fossil fuel autocrats. Labour seems to have understood that, the Conservatives don’t.”
Meanwhile, Luke Murphy, associate director for energy and climate at the centre-left IPPR think tank said: “This is a welcome and bold commitment to expand clean power and renewables, and reduce our dependence on expensive and climate destroying fossil fuels.”