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Starmer to say Tories’ ‘time is up’ as Labour launches local election campaign

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is to accuse Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of “bottling” calling a general election, ahead of launching Labour’s local election campaign in the West Midlands.

On Thursday Sir Keir is set to launch the campaign alongside deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner by criticising the Government for failing working people on levelling up, and affirming their party’s commitment to “full-fat devolution”.

Voters will go to the polls on May 2 to elect local councillors and mayors.

Sir Keir will tell those in attendance: “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.”

Sir Keir will accuse the Tories of “preying on the hopes” of working people by failing to deliver on its flagship levelling up policy.

He will say: “Four years ago, the former prime minister gave his big ‘levelling up’ speech, a project he said would turn the tide on regional inequality in this country.

“People say to me the worst thing you can do in politics is prey on people’s fear. Yet in some ways, preying on their hopes is just as bad.

Labour Creatives Conference
Sir Keir Starmer will accuse the Tories of ‘preying on the hopes’ of working people by failing to deliver on their flagship levelling up policy (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“That’s what the Tories did with levelling up. It is a good ambition for Britain. But it requires not just a new plan, also a fundamental shift in how we govern.”

Sir Keir and Ms Rayner will launch the party’s campaign document which includes detail on Labour’s plans for regional devolution.

Sir Keir will say: “As well as deploying the full power of government to deliver security for working people, we give power away and put communities in control.

“A new Take Back Control Act that sets a presumption towards devolution, and new powers for mayors over transport, skills, energy, and planning, so they can rejuvenate our high streets and generate growth for every town and city – a full-fat approach to devolution.”

Sir Keir is also expected to outline “what voting Labour means this year”.

He will say: “A plan that starts, as it must, with economic stability. Look at the Tories now, once again in desperation, committing to the madness of unfunded tax cuts.

“£46 billion to abolish national insurance, with no way of funding it other than risky borrowing or cutting your pension and our NHS.

“It’s like they think Liz Truss never happened. And maybe for their bills, for their mortgage, for their cost of living, it didn’t. But beyond the walls of Westminster, working people have paid an enormous price.”

Convention of the North 2024
Deputy Labour Party leader Angela Rayner will say we ‘could now be months away from the reset of a nation’ (Danny Lawson/PA)

Ms Rayner will say: “Today in Tory Britain, our regions and nations are more divided than ever. Living standards are stagnating, and the foundations of a good life are crumbling.

“We seek power so we can hand it back to the people. That is the Labour way. It belongs to them – not us. Because more of the same just isn’t good enough.

“Three-word slogans. Empty promises. Broken as quickly as they were made. Leaping from crisis to crisis. Driven by vested interest.

“Cronies, oligarchs and lobbyists who have had more say over the shape of the last decade than working families have.

“Never again. We could now be months away from the reset of a nation.”

Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden criticised Labour’s “audacity” in launching its campaign in the West Midlands, saying the party had “bankrupted Birmingham Council, cut local services, increased council tax by 21%… failed to cut crime and pushed the local force into special measures”.

Mr Holden said: “Across the country from Wales to London, wherever they’re in charge Labour mean the same thing: higher taxes and worse public services.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey warned that the Prime Minister is facing a “sewage backlash” in the May local elections.

Water pollution
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey by the Hogsmill River in Berrylands, south-west London (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Lib Dems have put tackling sewage at the heart of their efforts to win over traditionally Tory seats in so-called “blue wall” areas across southern England.

Ahead of a visit to West Dorset as part of his campaign tour, Sir Ed said: “Rishi Sunak and Conservative MPs are facing a sewage backlash after years of blocking tough measures to crack down on water firms.

“The water industry needs to be ripped up from top to bottom, to stop profits and shareholders’ dividends driving everything. It is time to start again.

“Sunak may have bottled a general election, but he cannot hide from voters in the local elections where communities will voice real anger at this environmental scandal.

“From Dorset to Yorkshire, lifelong Conservative voters across the country are switching to the Liberal Democrats because they’re fed up with seeing their rivers and beaches ruined by sewage.

“Under this Conservative government both sewage in our rivers and water company profits have increased hand in hand. Enough is enough: it is clear the only way to end this sewage scandal is to boot the Conservatives out of government.”

The Lib Dem leader will meet Surfers Against Sewage chief Giles Bristow and visit a polluted beach as part of his West Country tour.