Sir Keir Starmer will target the Government’s controversial 1% pay rise for NHS workers during the campaign for the May elections, declaring “a vote for Labour is a vote to support our nurses”.
The Labour leader is to launch the party’s campaign for the local and mayoral elections by demanding key workers are given “a proper pay rise” at a virtual event on Thursday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s move to recommend the low increase for health workers in England, despite their year-long toil during the coronavirus pandemic, has been widely criticised.
Mr Starmer, who has been seen to be struggling to overturn the Tories’ popularity after taking over the Labour leadership, will hope focusing on nurses’ pay will provide his campaign with much-needed momentum as he tries to centre the elections on Britain’s recovery.
Mr Starmer is anticipated to tell the virtual launch alongside candidates and leaders from across the UK that the party’s priorities are “securing the economy, protecting the NHS, rebuilding Britain”.
“So, if you want to support our nurses, to rebuild social care and to reward our key workers, then vote Labour. My mum was a nurse, my sister was a nurse, my wife works for the NHS,” he is expected to add.
“I know how tough this year has been for our NHS and I know that now, more than ever, is the time to give our key workers a proper pay rise.
“Every vote in this election is a chance to show the Conservatives that the British people value our NHS and our key workers so much more than this Government does.”
He will declare the elections are “about how Britain recovers”, accusing the Tories of being “out of touch and out of ideas” while raising taxes on families.
Attacking the Conservatives, he will criticise the “party that gives a 40% pay rise to Dominic Cummings, but a pay cut for our nurses”.
Mr Johnson has argued that he has tried to give NHS staff “as much as we possibly can”, but the policy is seen as being deeply unpopular with voters.
With threats of industrial action and demonstrations planned across England, a poll at the weekend suggested 72% of the population think the rise is too low, including 58% of Tory voters.
However, polling has also highlighted the struggle Mr Starmer is facing, with national voting intentions consistently putting the Conservatives ahead of Labour.
Voting on May 6 will include polls for district and county councils in England, police and crime commissioners and city mayors, including in London.
With Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly elections also taking place, Mr Starmer will accuse Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP of being “too busy fighting among themselves to fight for the Scottish people”.
Campaigning during the pandemic will look different, with doorstep activism taking place under Covid-secure guidelines and voters being asked to take their own pens to the polls.
Conservative Party co-chairwoman Amanda Milling said: “Labour politicians are distracted from delivering on your priorities and more interested in playing political games than delivering good services.
“Only the Conservatives can be trusted to focus on your priorities with a proven record of keeping bills down and providing better local services.”