Conservatives pushing economic model that left UK ‘exposed to pandemic’, Labour leader warns

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Labour leader Keir Starmer. Photo: Peter Nicholls/Reuters
Labour leader Keir Starmer. Photo: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

The leader of the Labour party criticised the way the Conservatives want to move forward with UK’s economic recovery, accusing the party of “dragging its feet” to support businesses..

“We are in a fork in the road and the Conservatives want to go back to the economic model that weakened Britain's foundation and left us exposed to the pandemic,” said Keir Starmer.

Speaking at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Global annual Conference 2021 in a pre-recorded speech, he said he was "committed to making this the most pro-business Labour party ever” and called for “a new partnership between an active state and enterprising business.”

Read more: FTSE underperforms amid rising COVID cases in England

He said the pandemic showed the best of Britain but also highlighted its fragilities, and Labour now wants to work with businesses to "deliver the fundamental change we need."

He said that is why his party has called for a £30bn ($42bn) green stimulus, investment tin skills and more support for business startups.

Meanwhile shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said that with the government pushing back the lifting of lockdown by at least four weeks, it must also extend its support including that around furlough and business rates.

Photo: British Chamber of Commerce
Ed Miliiband in conversation with Shevaun Haviland, BCC's director-general. Photo: British Chamber of Commerce

“If you're a nightclub business or in the hospitality sector and can't make any profit, and you are being asked to contribute money to furlough when you can't even open how is that fair?" he asked in a talk with Shevaun Haviland, BCC's director-general.

However, he praised chancellor Rishi Sunak for "showing imagination" with government economic support, especially when it came to furlough.

Going forward, he sees huge opportunities for manufacturing in the UK particularly when it comes to electric vehicles, and believes more work needs to be done to bridge regional inequalities.

"Devolution needs to be comprehensive not piecemeal.... we need to devolve decisions about resources to local authorities," he said, adding: "I'm not a fan of centralised pots of moneys. I don’t think that responds to what local business leaders are saying on the ground."

As for lessons learnt from the pandemic, he said both private and public organisations must do more to support parents and make child care systems "fit for purpose."

Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?

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