Starmer refuses to back tax rises on the rich to pay for Covid response

It's a marked shift in rhetoric from the Corbyn era.

Keir Starmer’s spokesman refused to back tax hikes on the wealthy to pay for the Covid response, during a briefing to lobby journalists this afternoon.

Asked whether Labour would back a mooted rise in Capital Gains Tax – reportedly under consideration by the Conservatives – or a wealth tax, Starmer’s spokesman said: “We’ll look at any proposals the government puts forward – it’s the Chancellor’s responsibility to make sure the economy bounces back”.

Pressed, Starmer’s spokesman added: “We’re not calling for tax rises, we’re calling for growth.”

Asked who Keir Starmer believes should pay for the Covid crisis, Mr Starmer’s spokesman avoided the question, saying: “We’re at the very early stages of this crisis…the government must focus on growing our economy and stimulating growth.”

“The priority has to be projecting jobs and protecting the economy,” he said, asked if Labour are now a party of ‘fiscal responsibility’.

“We’ll be setting out our plans at the next General Election.”

During the leadership election, Keir Starmer promised to increase income tax for the top 5% of earners, reverse the Tories’ cuts in corporation tax and clamp down on tax avoidance, particularly of large corporations. There would be “no stepping back from our core principles” he said.

Today’s comments suggest a marked shift in rhetoric compared to the Corbyn era. In the run up to the 2019 General Election, Corybn promised that a Labour government would target the super-rich, who exploit a “rigged system” to benefit themselves. The Labour leader even went as far as to name members of “the elite” to be targeted if he won the election, including Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley.

In the briefing, Starmer’s spokesman also revealed that the leader would be undertaking ‘unconscious bias’ training on racism this week, and that Labour would abstain on the SNP’s motion on extending the Brexit transition period on Wednesday: “We haven’t called for an extension – our priority is holding the govt to account.”

Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

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