Politics

Union boss says Labour should ‘give Britain a break’ and borrow more to help ‘hurting’ workers

Union boss Sharon Graham has said she does not agree with Labour’s fiscal rules and the party should borrow more to invest.

Speaking to Sky News’ Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips in an interview that will be broadcast in full tomorrow, the Unite general secretary said other countries with growing economies have a larger debt-to-GDP ratio than the UK, “so there is wiggle room”.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, has promised to retain the Tories’ commitment that debt as a proportion of GDP must be on track to fall in five years if Labour win the election on 4 July.

She has ruled out borrowing to fund day-to-day spending, saying her focus will be on reforms to grow the economy.

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But Ms Graham said: “I don’t agree with Rachel Reeves in terms of what has been said about the plans on growth.

“If you look at other countries – in France, their debt to GDP is 112%. In America, where the economy’s growing, it’s 130% debt to GDP. Ours is around about 99%. We have wiggle room. Give Britain a break.”

The union leader said that workers “are literally hurting beyond anything that you could comprehend” due to the cost of living crisis.

She added: “We need the straitjacket off a little bit, get some wiggle room there.

“Borrowing to invest is not the same as other borrowing. It’s borrowing to invest.”

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Reeves: ‘No plans’ for Labour tax increases beyond manifesto

Unite is Labour’s largest union donor but it has refused to endorse the party’s general election manifesto.

Ms Graham has been an outspoken critic of Sir Keir Starmer in the past, previously warning him not to “limp into Number 10” and calling on him to be bolder with his pledges, by nationalising energy, for example.

There has also been a row about his plans to phase out oil and gas licenses in the transition to clean energy, which Unite has called a “ban without a plan” and said threatens job losses.

And more recently Unite accused Labour of watering down its package of workers’ rights, saying the plans had “more holes than Swiss cheese”.

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Ms Graham’s concerns echo those of thinktanks which have said public services need far more investment than what any of the major parties have pledged during the election campaign.

Sir Keir has rejected that argument, insisting there will be no return to austerity despite his party’s commitment to “iron discipline” with the country’s finances.

He has previously defended his U-turn on big spending commitments, like nationalising utilities, by saying the policy became too expensive after the Tories damaged the economy.

In response to other criticisms from Ms Graham, he has insisted he is “not turning off the taps” on oil and gas while arguing his package of workers’ rights will boost wages and raise living standards.


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With less than two weeks to go until polling day, Labour is projected to win a historic landslide after 14 years out of power.

Ms Graham has said she still wants to see a Labour government in Number 10 but thinks the party’s proposals for the country don’t go far enough “after years of Tory neglect”.

The Labour Party has been contacted for comment.

You can watch the full interview with Sharon Graham on Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips from 8.30am tomorrow morning on Sky News.

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