Sir Keir Starmer has accused Boris Johnson of having no plan to move to a promised high-wage economy, as he said the prime minister is promising “jam tomorrow” amid the supply chain and labour shortage crisis.
Speaking ahead of a visit to a large British food manufacturer on Friday, the Labour leader took aim at the Government’s traditional position of supporting industry, referencing a dismissal of business concerns over Brexit reportedly given by Johnson when he was foreign secretary.
Johnson was widely reported to have said “f*** business” when asked about concerns over Brexit at an event for EU diplomats in London in 2018.
Sir Keir said: “The prime minister is actively putting into practice his infamous dismissal of business made three years ago.
“In a week where UK business is looking to the Government for solutions to the ongoing supply chain chaos and growing shortages crisis, Boris Johnson resorted to form – refusing to take responsibility, offering only jokes and slogans.”
Johnson has come under fire from business leaders following his speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Wednesday.
Industry chiefs have said they feel they are being blamed for labour shortages.
But the PM said he was setting out the “difficult” process of reshaping the British economy and defended his strategy of restricting the supply of cheap foreign labour after Brexit, insisting his new approach would ultimately create a “low-tax economy”.
Sir Keir said: “Boris Johnson failed to act when industry warned him of driver shortages months ago, allowing this chaos to develop.
“Without an adequate plan to recruit and train more drivers now, the chaos will continue as demand rises in the run-up to Christmas.
“Britain needs a high wage, high productivity economy, but this Government has no plan to get there. Instead, wages are stagnant, bills are rising, and the Conservatives are raising taxes on working families and small businesses.
“After 11 years of Conservative Government, the only thing on the shelves this week has been yet more jam tomorrow and British business deserves better.”
‘Let’s do this together’
Earlier, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi was asked on Sky News whether the Tories are “on a warpath with business”.
He replied: “I don’t agree with you. What I would say to everybody is let’s work together.
“We have seen retailers who invested in technology and have done really well. Others like Topshop and Topman didn’t make that investment and haven’t done so well.
“We’ve seen SMEs take advantage (of) £100 billion of grants and loans to support SMEs. That is what this Government is doing to help business.
“Let’s do this together. Let’s produce that high-wage, high-skill economy, because it is do-able.”