Starmer to say he’s ‘changed’ Labour as party rules out raising income tax or NI

<span>Keir Starmer hit the campaign trail in Stafford, West Midlands, on Saturday with Labour's candidate there, Leigh Ingham. He says he has ‘changed this party’.</span><span>Photograph: Jacob King/PA</span>
Keir Starmer hit the campaign trail in Stafford, West Midlands, on Saturday with Labour's candidate there, Leigh Ingham. He says he has ‘changed this party’.Photograph: Jacob King/PA

Keir Starmer will declare on Monday that Labour has changed “permanently” under his stewardship, after the party ruled out raising income tax or national insurance if it wins the election.

In his first keynote speech of the general election campaign, the Labour leader will seek to reassure nervous voters that transforming his party has been his “driving mission since day one”.

Speaking in the south-east, where Labour is targeting swing voters in Conservative-held seats, Starmer will say: “Whatever the polls say, I know there are countless people who haven’t decided how they’ll vote in this election.

Related: Corbyn influence on Labour policy ‘well and truly over’, says Starmer

“They’re fed up with the failure, chaos and division of the Tories, but they still have questions about us. Has Labour changed enough? Do I trust them with my money, our borders, and our security?

“My answer is yes, you can – because I have changed this party. Permanently. This has been my driving mission since day one. I was determined to change Labour so that it could serve the British people.”

Rachel Reeves has vowed that Labour would not raise income tax or national insurance in the next parliament. She said there would be no “return to austerity” under Labour and that the party had committed to an “immediate injection of cash into public services”.

But the shadow chancellor stressed there would be no “unfunded proposals” in the Labour manifesto. “Money for our NHS, the additional police – 13,000 additional police and community officers – and the 6,500 additional teachers in our schools, they are all fully costed and fully funded promises, because unless things are fully costed and fully funded, frankly, you can’t believe they’re going to happen,” Reeves told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

She added: “What I want and Keir wants is taxes on working people to be lower, and we certainly won’t be increasing income tax or national insurance if we win at the election.”

Speaking in the south-east, Starmer will say Labour has been “ruthless in making sure these policies are deliverable, fully funded and ready to go”.

A Labour campaign source said: “The Tories have spent 14 years burning down the country. Now they want you to hand them another box of matches and a jerry can of petrol. This election is the chance to remove the arsonists and rebuild Britain.”

The party will reportedly carry out a 100-day review of threats facing Britain, in a pledge that would underline the party’s commitment to national security.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, told the Times the policy would involve MI5, the police and Whitehall conducting a “security sprint” to identify threats from hostile states, including Russia and Iran, from extremism and artificial intelligence.

This will be Starmer’s third visit to the south-east in as many weeks, as he targets Tory-held seats in Kent and Essex which haven’t returned Labour MPs since the New Labour years.

In his speech the Labour leader will make a personal pledge to wavering voters who are considering backing him, saying: “I know those people are looking at this election, looking at me personally. So, I make this promise: I will fight for you.

“I took this Labour party four years ago, and I changed it into the party you see today. I was criticised for some of the changes I’ve made, change is always like that.

“There are always people who say, don’t do that, don’t go so fast. But whenever I face a fork in the road, it always comes back to this: the golden thread: country first, party second.”

Related: Labour vows to ban fire and rehire after war of words with unions

Reeves defended Labour’s plans to end fire and rehire practices after Unite criticised the party for excluding an outright ban from the final version of its workers’ rights package. The union’s secretary general, Sharon Graham, said the proposal now had “more holes than Swiss cheese”.

Reeves insisted that Labour retained the support of trade unions for “the biggest ever extension of workplace rights that’s ever been introduced”.

Labour insiders said the party had gone further in its attempt to outlaw fire and rehire practices by changing the language used in its final workers’ rights package from “banning” to “ending”. But they said they would not allow situations where employers and workers were not able to negotiate contractual terms to save jobs if they were genuinely facing insolvency.

Reeves told the BBC: “When a company’s facing bankruptcy and there is no alternative, they will have to consult with their workers and their trade unions. Those are very, very limited circumstances.”

Labour published its workers’ rights package on Friday under the new branding “Labour’s plan to make work pay: delivering a new deal for working people”.