Starmer accuses PM of ‘gaslighting’ the public over cost of living crisis

2 February 2022, 08:37 | Updated: 2 February 2022, 12:48

Sir Keir Starmer said the Tories were hitting the public with stealth taxes
Sir Keir Starmer said the Tories were hitting the public with stealth taxes. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the Prime Minister of 'gaslighting' the public over the cost of living crisis and imposing 'stealth taxes' on millions of hard-working families.

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In a fiery session of PMQs, Sir Keir Starmer said freezing income tax rates, tuition fee repayment rates and increases to council tax from April were examples of Tory "stealth taxes."

He criticised the Tories for saying they are a tax-cutting party, when working people are facing soaring living costs of over £2,000 per household.

The PM dismissed this and said the UK has suffered an “unprecedented economic crisis” caused by the Covid pandemic.

'Why do these alleged tax-cutters keep raising taxes on working people?'

The Labour leader also made reference to the Partygate scandal in a quip aimed at the PM, saying Mr Johnson's bluster "won't work with the police".

Sir Keir also accused the government of "waste and fraud" in Covid procurement after yesterday's news that ministers had written off £8.7bn paid for personal protective equipment (PPE).

Sir Keir said ministers had treated taxpayers "as an ATM for their mates and their lifestyles". Boris Johnson said the government "despises" fraud and highlighted the work at the start of the pandemic in securing PPE stocks.

The blistering exchange came as businesses warned families have seen the biggest price increases in a decade as shop inflation almost doubled in a month.

With inflation at a 30-year-high and more prices rises yet to come, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has said it was "impossible" to shield people from the cost of living crisis.

"Many households will find it difficult to absorb the additional costs, as well as others on the horizon," said Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC.

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"Retailers are working hard to cut costs, but it would be impossible to protect consumers from any future rises.

"As commodity prices, energy prices and transportation costs continue to rise, it is inevitable that retail prices will continue to follow in the future."

Shop price annual inflation accelerated to 1.5 per cent in January, up from 0.8 per cent in December - the highest rate since December 2012.

Ms Dickinson said the price rises were the result of poor harvests, labour shortages and rising global food prices.

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Meanwhile, calculations by The Telegraph predicted that the average worker can expect to pay £2,848 more per year.

The figure accounts for soaring petrol prices, the financial impact of the energy crisis, the expected increase in mortgage repayments and the controversial hike to national insurance that was confirmed by Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak at the weekend.

It also considers the increase in Council Tax, rail fares, the inflation-driven increase in household shopping costs, and expected rises in mobile and broadband bills.

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The rate of inflation - a term used to describe the increase in prices over time - reached a 30-year-high in January, after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said it jumped from 5.1 per cent in November to 5.4 per cent in December.

It hit 7.1 per cent in March 1992.

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The Government is under increasing pressure to take measures to tackle the crisis, with fears more people could have to choose between heating their homes or eating well.

It makes the Government's decision to increase national insurance all the more controversial.

The rise was confirmed by the Prime Minister and Chancellor on Saturday night, with the pair insisting they were still "tax-cutting Conservatives".

Labour have hit out at the Tories for the increase, calling it "deeply unfair" because it only impacts working people.

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"The only shielding this government is interested in is protecting the wealthiest few from paying more tax," said Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves back in September.

"A private landlord owning and renting out multiple properties won’t pay a penny more in tax, yet their hard-working tenants – working for a living – will be hit hard.

"It is deeply unfair.

"For this government the incomes of working people in this country aren’t of interest."