Sun, 14 April 2024

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Labour To Prioritise Attacking The Government's Record On Tax Rises


4 min read

Labour will focus on attacking the government's record on taxation as well as its recent string of Tory "sleaze" as the country heads towards an election in 2024.

Party leader Keir Starmer is set to deliver a speech on Thursday which will contain Labour's attack lines on the Conservatives and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as the election year begins. 

"After 14 years people are just fed up with what they're seeing before them," a Labour source told PoliticsHome.

"There's a reason why the Conservatives have changed Prime Minister so frequently; they're in the political turmoil that they find themselves so frequently for a reason.

"Keir will touch on that in his speech tomorrow."

The Government decided to cut national insurance from 12 per cent to ten per cent from 6 January – and there is growing speculation it may scrap inheritance tax in March – but a Labour party source said the cut will actually draw attention to the government's record on taxes; and this is something the party welcomes.

Economists have pointed out that even with the tax cut in the Autumn Statement, taxes currently make up more than 37 per cent of national income – the highest level since 1948 – with tax hikes, like freezes to personal income tax thresholds, driving up tax levels.

The Times reported that shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves is weighing up cuts to income tax or national insurance in the party's election manifesto. It is understood that shadow ministers are readying their policy proposals for February in anticipation of a Spring election – which frontbencher Emily Thornberry described as "the worst kept secret in Westminster". 

"We don't regard the National Insurance cuts as a strength for the government, because we are of the view that this is actually just reminding people that after 14 years of the Tories... households are £1,200 worse off," said a Labour source.

"And it's reminding people: why is the tax burden at the highest since the Second World War?

"We're fairly content with people being reminded of that, and the government will wear that record."

They added: "On Tuesday [Labour launched] the online Tory tax calculator... just really to hammer home that message to the public that despite what the government has announced, the public can go and view it for themselves.

"They can look at that salary band and find out how much more they are paying in tax under the Tories, despite this small cut from the government – we've kind of made that the centrepiece of targeted social media ads, and for anybody going to search about taxes."

Elsewhere, they said Labour would capitalise on the feeling among the public that "nothing's working" and that Labour could offer "change".

In December, Starmer pledged a "decade of renewal" to voters in a speech marking four years since the 2019 election, the party's worst defeat since the 1930s. 

"You will hear us talking more about how Labour is that change," the Labour source said. 

"We've changed the party first before being able to face outwards, and reconnect with the voters that we lost in 2019.

"We now feel that we're in that position to make that connection and to have that permission to articulate to the public that we are a force to stand behind working people and the broader public again."

They added that Reeves had asked on a number of occasions that "after 14 years, do working families feel better off? And the answer is: 'no'."

Another Labour source told PoliticsHome the party would also focus on the "scandals" rocking the Tory party and "waste". 

Sunak's party is already facing a by-election in 2024 after Peter Bone – who was elected as a Conservative MP but lost the whip after the Independent Expert Panel in the House of Commons report accused him of sexual misconduct and bullying – was recalled following a petition by his constituents. 

There may also be a second by-election in Blackpool South, after it was recommended by the Commons Standards Committee that MP Scott Benton should be suspended by 35 days for breaking lobbying rules; if the recommendations are accepted by MPs, a by-election will be triggered due to the length of the suspension.  Benton was elected as a Conservative but lost the whip in 2023 after footage emerged of him offering to use his position as an MP to lobby for private companies. 

"They want to talk about an office for government waste, trying to reframe the argument on the economy, to say it's the government who are bad on the economy," a Labour source told PoliticsHome. 

"They will point to the PPE VIP lanes, and the amount of sleaze, all sorts of scandals –  and basically paint us as bringing some decency back."

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Read the most recent article written by Nadine Batchelor-Hunt - Labour's Tax Crackdown Could Be Dampened By "Bigger Public Finance Challenge", Economists Warn


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