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Sir Keir Starmer says Liz Truss has driven UK economy ‘into a wall’

Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to Wolverhampton to discuss the current housing market instability. (Jacob King/PA)
Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to Wolverhampton to discuss the current housing market instability. (Jacob King/PA)

Sir Keir Starmer said Liz Truss had “taken the economy” and “driven it into a wall” after the Prime Minister’s suggestion that Labour was part of an “anti-growth coalition”.

The Labour leader branded Ms Truss the “destroyer of growth” as he baulked at the Prime Minister’s claim, adding mortgages were rising as a “direct result” of the Government’s “kamikaze mini-budget” last month.

Analysis by the Labour Party suggests an average UK buyer coming off a two-year fixed mortgage could see a £498 monthly hike if interest rates hit 6%.

Both parties have said they want to see economic growth with Ms Truss questioning Labour’s intentions and Sir Keir questioning the Conservative’s results.

Tory party chairman Jake Berry said the UK faces a “difficult winter” but he believes “people will start to see next year that our growth plan is turning the country around”.

Liz Truss
Sir Keir Starmer accused Prime Minister Liz Truss of being ‘the destroyer of growth’ (PA)

Speaking on a visit to Bilston, Wolverhampton, on Thursday, Sir Keir responded to Ms Truss’s suggestion in her conference speech on Wednesday that Labour was part of an “anti-growth coalition” who are the “enemies of enterprise”.

He said: “The argument that what the Government did two weeks ago in the mini-budget is a plan for growth is ridiculous.

“The Prime Minister has taken the economy, driven it into a wall and (is) pretending this is pro-growth.

“If you have consequences that increase mortgage payments by hundreds of pounds per month that is anti-growth.

“It’s a destroyer of growth.

“It certainly isn’t pro-growth.”

He was speaking to staff at high street finance brokers Acorns to Oaks Financial Services, whose own employees have been left facing their own mortgage dilemmas.

He heard from 26-year-old Zach Oakley, finance manager, who along with his partner HR assistant Rebecca Butler, had been looking to buy their first home before the recent rate rise shocks.

Their plans are now on hold while work colleague Sean Skeldon, also told of his dilemma with his 1.83% fixed rate mortgage ending within the next 12 months.

Mr Skeldon, married with a young child and thinking of growing his family, told Sir Keir: “If it’s 6% (mortgage rates) now, if it goes further, we’re working the maths out and that potentially is £800 extra a month we’re going to be paying.”

He added: “Now is the time to think about that second child and potentially we can’t afford that.”

Afterwards Sir Keir said “millions of people” were “paying the cost of the Government’s recklessness”.

He added: “I think the reaction of many people is not just frustration but anger.

“We had a kamikaze mini-budget two weeks ago.

“As a direct consequence, mortgages are going up – and not by a little; hundreds of pounds, £500 is the average, per month.

“There are not many people, not many families that can afford that kind of increase.”

He said: “This is self-inflicted with the Government’s mini-budget two weeks ago.”

He added: “It has human consequences, millions of people paying the cost of the government’s recklessness.”

(PA Graphics)

Earlier, during a round of interviews on regional BBC radio stations, Sir Keir said the mini-budget was about as”anti-growth as you could possibly be”.

Speaking to BBC Radio Lincolnshire, he said any plan for growth must “start with jobs” and not with “this idea that if you just make rich people richer, somehow in the end we’ll all be better off”.

He said it is “pretty insulting” to those going out to work each day to suggest richer people are the source of economic growth.

When asked by BBC Radio Surrey, the Labour leader said he has not paid off his mortgage.

But focusing on others impacted by rising interest rates, he said: “If they’re not on a fixed rate of course they’re paying more as a direct result of the kamikaze politics of two weeks ago.

“That is just not fair and I think they will be more than frustrated, if they’ll… not a little bit angry.”

Referring to recent poll leads for his party, Sir Keir told BBC Radio Devon that he will not be “complacent” about Labour’s performance as he has got to “earn every vote”.

Meanwhile, asked on LBC when the country will know when the Government’s growth plan is working, Mr Berry said: “This is going to be a difficult winter.

“We have a war on the soil of Europe in the Ukraine, with a vile and illegal war.

“We have challenges around global supply chains still coming into our economy from Covid.

“We have global inflation.

“So this is going to be a difficult winter but I hope and believe that people will start to see next year that our growth plan is turning the country around.”

A Government spokesman said there are a “range of factors” affecting mortgage interest rates.

They also said the Government is doing “what it can” to support people with the rising costs of energy through the price guarantee and other measures, and that the growth plan and changes to taxes are putting money “back in the pockets” of working people.