Sir Keir Starmer has refused to guarantee the tax burden – currently the largest since the Second World War – would not increase under Labour.
While the opposition leader told Sky News’ Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips programme he wanted it to come down “for working people”, his “laser focus” was on growing the economy.
Sir Keir, along with shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, have sought to stress the party’s plans for fiscal prudence in the face of difficult economic conditions.
In the exclusive interview, he also dismissed Conservative Party claims about Labour’s immigration plans as “complete garbage” – after the Tories argued the Opposition’s proposals would increase asylum seeker numbers.
Pressed over the tax burden, Sir Keir declined to give an assurance it would reduce under a Labour government.
He said: “I want it to come down for working people.
“But also, I’m absolutely focused on growing the economy.
“If the economy in the last 13 years had grown at the same rate as the last Labour government, we’d have tens of billions of pounds to spend on our public services without raising a penny more in tax.
“And that’s where I want that laser focus.”
‘The government has been pumping out complete garbage’
Sir Keir also rejected accusations levelled by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman that Labour was planning to let the UK become a “dumping ground” for 100,000 migrants from the EU each year.
The political row flared after the Labour leader indicated he could be prepared to do a deal with Brussels which would involve the UK taking a quota of asylum seekers who arrive in the bloc in exchange for the ability to return people who cross the English Channel.
Labour has proposed speeding up data and intelligence sharing with Europe as part of a new post-Brexit security pact and strengthening powers to restrict the movement of those suspected of organised immigration crime.
Speaking to Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips on Sky News, Sir Keir called Conservative claims about his plans “complete nonsense”.
He said: “Let me be absolutely crystal clear about this, because the government has been pumping out complete garbage this week in terms of the numbers that they are suggesting.
“There is obviously an EU quota system for EU members. Well, it’s obvious we are not an EU member.
“We will not be part of that. We are not an EU member. This is why what the government’s saying, it’s been complete garbage.
“And even that scheme within the EU is not working.
“I’ve been discussing that with EU leaders up here.
“That scheme itself isn’t really working very well.
“So the idea that we’re going to join the EU scheme on quotas is complete nonsense.
“We’re not an EU member and that wasn’t what I was talking about.”
The opposition leader also brushed off Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt’s Barbie-based jibe that – like Beach Ken – Sir Keir has “zero balls”.
“I just think when a government has completely run out of energy and ideas and the ability to shape or change anything, they go down this rabbit hole of ridiculous insults.
“It’s water off a duck’s back to me,” he said.