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Starmer refuses to rule out council tax hike, bins plans for football levy and admits he would have served under Corbyn

18 June 2024, 10:37 | Updated: 18 June 2024, 12:08

Sir Keir Starmer took questions from LBC listeners this morning with a few weeks until the nation goes to the polls
Sir Keir Starmer took questions from LBC listeners this morning - with just over two weeks before Britain goes to the polls. Picture: Alamy
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has repeatedly refused to rule out council tax hikes in an exclusive phone in with LBC.

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Sir Keir insisted he wouldn't write "five years worth" of plans live on the radio - but pointedly couldn't rule out hiking council levies if he gets into office.

In a phone-in with LBC's Nick Ferrari, the Labour leader defended his party's plans for a VAT raid on private schools, not scrapping the two child benefit limit, and what he would do to finally end the junior doctors strikes.

In a tough grilling from listeners, he binned plans for a levy on Premier League transfers which could have slapped millions onto club bills.

But he was forced to admit he would have served in government under Jeremy Corbyn if his predecessor had won the last election.

Sir Keir - who is the bookies' favourite to become PM in just under three weeks' time - insisted that despite his party riding high in the polls, it's not all over yet.

He insisted: "The polls don't predict the future - we have to fight for every vote."

In an hour-long session facing callers, the Labour leader:

  • Called on junior doctors to call off their imminent strikes - and insisted Labour would take a different approach
  • Defended hiking VAT on private schools - saying it was a "tough choice" and "there's not a lot of money around"
  • Hit out at Nigel Farage for not fully funding his manifesto - where he's called for the two child benefit limit to be binned
  • Faced fury from a Northern Ireland veteran over his plans to rip up the legacy act, which critics say will reopen a fresh witch-hunt
  • Revealed more of how he would push for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine - but refused to say Israel was committing genocide
  • Insisted he understood the importance of single-sex spaces, and stressed that trans people should have separate wards

And he admitted that while taxes won't go up on working families, there will be some tax rises under his premiership.

He defended the party's spending plans if Labour come into power in three weeks' time, saying their manifesto plans are "fully costed and fully funded."

He said: "There are some tax rises, we want to get rid of non dom loopholes, private equity loopholes, we want a better windfall taxes.

"None of our plans require a tax rise, they will be based on growth."

General Election LIVE: Labour leader Keir Starmer joins Nick Ferrari to take your calls

Read more: Starmer tells LBC removing ‘tax break’ for private schools is a ‘tough choice’ but ‘no magic wand’ to recruit more teachers

Read more: 'It would be foolish to write five years worth of budgets now': Starmer refuses to rule out council tax rises

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer during Breakfast on LBC with Nick Ferrari this morning
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer during Breakfast on LBC with Nick Ferrari this morning. Picture: Alamy

He dodged questions on whether council tax could rise, saying "it would be foolish to write five years worth of budgets."

But he not rule out changes to council tax -when asked about tax rises outside Labour's manifesto plans.

Labour's Jonathan Ashworth insisted yesterday they would not change council tax bands if they get into power.

The Labour leader was asked by caller Sid in Lincolnshire if his party would look to change council tax bands or consider changing tax arrangements for private pensions, after it ruled out increasing VAT, income tax, or national insurance.

"None of our plans require tax rises over and above the ones we have set out," Sir Keir said.

Pressed on whether this would include a council tax band revaluation, he said: "What I am not going to do is sit here two-and-a-bit weeks before the election and write the budgets for the next five years.

"What I can say is that none of our plans require a tax rise, and that is for a reason, and the reason is our focus in getting our economy going, on building, on growing, on raising living standards, on creating wealth."

Asked what he meant when he said he would not raise taxes for "working people", Sir Keir said: "The person I have in my mind when I say working people is people who earn their living, rely on our services, and don't really have the ability to write a cheque when they get into trouble."

Keir Starmer declines to give a straight answer on council tax

Starmer dodged questions on whether he would have been happy to see a Labour win under Jeremy Corbyn, insisting it was "hypothetical".

Graham in Bushey asked Sir Keir to give a "simple yes or no" answer "without the waffle about believing Labour wouldn't win."

"Had Labour won the election in 17 or 19, would you be happy to serve in Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn's cabinet?"

But he appeared to admit he would have served in Government if they had won, saying: "If we had won, there were things I thought needed to be done."

The Labour boss also defended his position to add VAT on private school fees - saying there wasn't much money around but it was the right thing to do.

One parent phoned in to say it “feels like a super tax on me”.

Sir Keir was pushed by Nick Ferrari: “How come you know better than all these teachers?”

Sir Keir replied: “I have got nothing against private schools and I understand that a lot of parents save hard and work hard to send their children to private schools because they have real aspiration for them.

“But I also understand that all parents have aspirations for their children, including parents who send their children to a state school.

“I want to make sure every single child, wherever they come from, whatever their background has the opportunity to get on in life and feel like success belongs to them.

“It is a tough choice there isn’t a lot of money but it is a choice we have made to make sure we have the money for teachers in our state secondary schools.”

Nick Ferrari questions Keir Starmer on how Labour will pay for teachers in schools with SEND pupils

The Labour boss also revealed more of his plans to recognise the Palestinian state as part of a peace process.

Previously Sir Keir got into a muddle during another LBC interview with Nick, where he appeared to suggest that he'd support cutting off water to Gaza as part of Israel's right to defend itself.

Labour have lost chunks of Muslim support on some of their key areas, as a result.

In the party's manifesto they vowed to push for Palestine to be recognised as an official state - as Ireland, Norway and Spain have now done.

Sir Keir said that a two state solution would depend on an Israel that is "safe and secure" and a "viable" Palestinian state offering too.

He told a concerned caller: "It is not safe and secure at the moment. Should we win the election, it will be part of our duty to play our full part in resolving this. I'll take up that duty.

"I'm talking to senior leaders in Israel and across Arab countries, making sure we are fully involved in those discussions."

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer during LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast show, at Global Studios, London, while on the General Election campaign trail. Picture date: Tuesday June 18, 2024.
The Labour boss faced a grilling from callers and Nick Ferrari. Picture: Alamy

Caller Emma in Greenwich questioned how Labour's pledge to make it easier to obtain gender recognition certificates (GRCs) can work in line with the protection of single-sex spaces.

When asked about single-sex spaces and whether the two policies add up, Sir Keir said: “They do... I passionately think we should protect single spaces for women and girls, that's something I've been clear about for a very long time.

“Whether that’s in sports, whether that's in the work I did, particularly in the support refuges for those that have been subjected to violence - physical or sexual - it's very very important that we preserve that."

When challenged by Nick on whether a biological male who had a GRC would be allowed on a women’s ward at an NHS hospital, Sir Keir said: “No it’s a single-sex ward.

“You would be accommodated but not on a women’s ward. Hospitals already do this, there are ways that this can be done, lots of wards have side rooms and that sort of thing.

“I've obviously spent quite a lot of time in hospitals, many wards these days do have side rooms for general use and (GRC holders) can be accommodated.”

(Credit Image: © Thomas Krych/ZUMA Press Wire) EDITORIAL USAGE ONLY! Not for Commercial USAGE! Credit: ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Live News
Starmer returned to the campaign trail after his hour long phone-in. Picture: Alamy

Sir Keir also defended Labour's plans to repeal the Legacy Act should the party win the election, insisting the bill does not have enough support in Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act came into effect last September.

It included possible amnesties for those accused of terrorist-related killings and crime during decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

Asked by caller Steve, a veteran, why Labour would repeal the act given that it could lead to British veterans being prosecuted but not IRA terrorists, Sir Keir said he was opposed to it for "a number of reasons".

“I’ve got quite a lot of knowledge and experience of the process in Northern Ireland and the history and the aftermath,” Sir Keir told Steve

“I’m against it for a number of reasons. The first is it doesn’t have the support of any of the political parties in Northern Ireland.

"This is the wrong way of doing business.”

He added that the act doesn’t have the support of victims groups either.Sir Keir said it would not be fair if terrorists who did not receive letters of comfort were not prosecuted, though critics have said it could lead to the prosecution of British veterans.

Starmer sidesteps questions on his support for Corbyn eight times

The Labour boss returned to the campaign trail following his LBC phone-in.

PM Rishi Sunak will be questioned by Nick Ferrari on Wednesday morning.

He's accused the Labour boss today of wanting to lower the voting age to 16 to entrench a decade of Labour in power.

"What is striking about it is Keir Starmer doesn’t believe in the principle because he’s not saying anything else should change," Mr Sunak told the Daily Mail.

"It would be one thing if you believed that we just need to change the age that we generally consider people to become adults in this country (and) all the things that go along with that, all the rights and responsibilities."

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