Starmer and Rayner launch Labour’s local election campaign with attack on Tories’ levelling up record – politics live | Politics

Key events

Keir Starmer is speaking now.

He thanks Angela Rayner for her introduction, and jokes that anyone going for a drink with her should avoid her favourite drink, Venom (a near-lethal cocktail).

The launch is in Dudley, and Starmer says Labour is campaigning to win her.

He says he had hoped to be launching a general election campaign.

I was hoping we’d be launching a different election campaign here today. But unfortunately the prime minister has bottled it.

He wants one last, drawn out summer, with his beloved helicopter. And so, we’re going to have to use these local elections to send him another message and show his party – once again – that their time is up. The dithering must stop, the date must be set, because Britain wants change, and it’s time for change with Labour.

Rayner also describes Rishi Sunak as like someone who promises to get the first round in when you are going for a night out, and then never delivers.

She says we could be months away from the reset of a nation.

It is time for change, she says. She goes on:

We used to say the Labour party is a moral crusade or is nothing. Well, I’m telling you now that my moral crusade is to fight for working people who built this land so that they will benefit again from the growth that they create.

Rayner ends by introducing Keir Starmer, saying he is someone who “always gets his round in”.

Angela Rayner and Keir Starmer speak at Labour’s local elections campaign launch

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, has described the Tory levelling up agenda as like a burnt-out car. The Mirror’s Lizzy Buchan has posted this from the launch, where Rayner is speaking.

Angela Rayner says the Tory Levelling Up slogan is now a “burnt out shell… like a car that’s been nicked and left behind a row of garages”

— Lizzy Buchan (@LizzyBuchan) March 28, 2024


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Rayner says she won’t publish advice she says refutes claim she did not pay full tax owed after house sale

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, has said she will not publish the tax advice that she has received relating to the sale of a house she sold before she became an MP.

Speaking on the Today programme, she said she would only publish information of that kind if the Tory MPs who have criticsed her over the sale agree to publish their own tax details going back more than a decade. There is no indication any of them will.

Rayner has repeatedly said that she did nothing wrong, and that she paid all the tax she owed. But Tory MPs have suggested, on the basis of information published in a new biography of Rayner by Lord Ashcroft, the former Conservative deputy chair, that rules were broken, and yesterday Greater Manchester police said it was reviewing its decision not to investigate some of these allegations.

Rayner says she has had tax advice saying she did now owe capital gains tax on the sale, as some Tories have alleged. But, in an interview on the Today programme, asked why she would not publish it, she replied:

Because that’s my personal tax advice. But I’m happy to comply with the necessary authorities that want to see that.

She said she would hand over the information to the police and HM Revenue and Customs,adding: “But I’m not going to put out all of my personal details for the last 15 years about my family”.

Rayner said that if James Daly, the Tory deputy chair who reported her to Greater Manchester police, Rishi Sunak and chancellor Jeremy Hunt published their tax details for the last 15 years, she would do the same. She added:

If you show me yours, then I’ll show you mine.


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Blow for Sunak as revised figures confirm UK did go into recession last year

Official figures have confirmed that the UK economy went into recession at the end of last year, after the latest estimate found it contracted in the last two quarters of 2023, Phillip Inman reports.

Starmer praises ambition behind Boris Johnson’s levelling up agenda and blames Sunak for blocking it

Good morning. Keir Starmer is launching Labour’s local elections campaign this morning, and to mark the event he has discovered his inner Boris Johnson. He has written a joint article with Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, praising the ambition behind levelling up, Johnson’s flagship domestic policy priority.

This is not new territory for Starmer. Much of his leadership has been about trying to win back the “red wall” voters who deserted Labour for the Tories in 2019 and it’s why he has told them he wants to “make Brexit work”, not rejoin the single market. Like Johnson, Starmer has criticised what is said to be the new Labour economic model, one over-reliant on financial services in the City of London to generate revenue to subsidise the rest of the UK.

But there is a new twist in the article today; Starmer is blaming Rishi Sunak for blocking levelling up. (Demonising Sunak for thwarting Johnson, you could say he’s discovered his inner Nadine Dorries too.)

In their article Starmer and Rayner write:

Where you are born often dictates where you end up. That people from Blackpool have a life expectancy of ten years fewer than those in Westminster is a travesty. Instead of pitting areas against one another and relying on the square mile of the City of London to keep the UK economy afloat, we’ll tackle Britain’s regional divide and match the ambition people have for their community. It will be at the heart of our mission-led government.

It’s understandable that working people might have become disillusioned or cynical, because one of the biggest tragedies of the past 14 years is the sense that things can’t change. But they can and they will.

The Tories started to understand this with the levelling-up white paper. Much of the analysis in it was good. And there were parts that talked a good game about how Britain needed to build up all parts of the country.

But the policy was killed at birth by the then chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who refused to back it; the chaos and corruption of the Tory government under Johnson, and a failure to give regions the levers to make it happen. The “cap in hand” approach left places patronised, not empowered. A few million pounds for local projects was not part of a co-ordinated strategy but part of a short-term giveaway — and local people have seen through it.

Labour was not quite so complimentary about the levelling up white paper when it was published.

As well as being deputy leader, Rayner is shadow levelling up secretary and she will be in charge of this portfolio in a Labour government. She wants to find another name for levelling up (the concept, but also by extension the department). It has been reported that “powering up” is one option, although you would assume they would be able to come up with something better.

In their article Starmer and Rayner argue that Labour’s plans to devolve more powers to metro mayors and local authorities will go a long way to delivering levelling up. They say:

Whitehall under the Tories has become too passive and overly centralised. We will turn that on its head, delivering a far more active central government willing to give local leaders the levers needed to turbocharge their areas. We will change the relationship. Partnership in pursuit of common national missions, not buck-passing and division.

Our Take Back Control Act will entrust power to local leaders, who know their area best and have skin in the game. We will widen English devolution so that every community is taking advantage of the opportunities it brings. We will deepen devolution so combined authorities have a path to gaining powers over transport, skills, housing and planning, employment support, energy and can get a long-term integrated funding settlement in return for exemplary frameworks for managing public money. This will enable local leaders to develop powerful local growth plans that attract specialist industries and enhance their local strengths.

Here is the agenda for the day.

10am: Keir Starmer speaks at the launch of Labour’s local elections campaign in the West Midlands. Angela Rayner, the deputy leader, and Richard Parker, the party’s candidate for West Midlands mayor, are also there.

11.30am: The Reform UK MP Lee Anderson holds a press conference in Blackpool to unveil the party’s candidate in the forthcoming byelection.

12pm: Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s first minister, takes questions at Holyrood.

Also, in the Scottish parliament, an assisted dying bill drafted by the Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur is being published.

If you want to contact me, do use the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a laptop or a desktop. This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting, too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line; privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate); or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest.


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