Keir Starmer has told the government it needs to “step up and put in place a long-term and sustainable agreement” for funding Transport for London, saying that in failing to do so “they’re letting London down, they’re letting Londoners down” and having an adverse impact on the capital’s economy too.
The Labour leader made his remarks during a visit to a nursery in Harrow, a politically-marginal Labour-run borough where the Conservatives hope to make gains on 5 May despite London-wide opinion polls giving Labour huge leads over the Tories.
Starmer told On London the government’s refusal to support TfL, whose finances were devastated by the impact of Covid, with anything more than a series of short-term funding packages with conditions attached, was “no doubt for political reasons” and that Boris Johnson’s administration should instead “do the right thing” and strike a longer deal with the capital’s strategic transport authority.
Asked if Labour’s attitude to London is different from that of the Conservatives, whose “levelling up” agenda appears to involve penalising London while favouring other parts of the country with investment, Starmer said, “yes, but it’s not just London. I think we have a different attitude to every city and every town across the country”.
The MP for Holborn & St Pancras underlined that he lives in London and described it as “a fantastic city”. On London understands he will be making at least one further campaign appearance in the capital in the coming weeks.
Asked about child care costs, which a recent analysis confirmed are higher in London than anywhere else in Britain, Starmer spoke about a national “children’s recovery plan” to increase after school and breakfast club provision, “that would not only help families financially but also allow them to go out to work or continue to work”.
He added: “I think many parents are staggered that the government didn’t even address that in the spring statement. It just shows you, if you needed to know, just how out of touch they are with the stresses and strains that so many people are facing across the country.’
Speaking more broadly about the rising cost of living, Starmer emphasised the dramatic increase in domestic energy bills and the Chancellor’s national insurance tax hike, which comes into effect from Wednesday, repeating Labour’s calls for a “windfall tax” to be raised from oil and gas companies to help households struggling to pay their bigger bills.
Starmer pledged that Labour will be “fighting for every vote” in the borough elections and would need to earn them. Praising Labour candidates and councils, he said Labour administrations have been “showing where Labour is already in power what a difference it makes, and where we don’t hold power what a difference it would make if Labour was in power”.
He acknowledged that ward boundary changes in Harrow have “made it more difficult here” for his party, which won by 35 seats to 26 in 2018 with the Conservatives gaining two seats compared with Labour’s one.
“These are elections that are about a critical question which is, whose side are you on?,” he said. “The Labour Party is on the side of millions and millions of working people across the country.”
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