Keir Starmer urged to admit he was wrong to ‘talk down Britain’

Jeremy Hunt delivers speech on plans for the UK economy

Sir Keir Starmer has been urged to admit he was wrong to “talk down Britain” after revised official figures revealed the UK economy had done better than previously thought

Treasury minister Andrew Griffith wrote to the Labour leader and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves following new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which showed the economy had already returned to its pre-Covid levels by the end of 2021.

Mr Griffith said there was a “deafening silence” from the Opposition as he called on the pair to have the “grace to admit they were wrong”.

He wrote: “I know Labour’s trademark is to talk Britain down – whether this be wanting to keep us locked down during the pandemic, defying the will of the British people over Brexit or consistently carping about our business or economic prospects.

“However, Labour achieved a new level of disdain and naysaying when declaring the UK’s economy was lagging behind our European neighbours as we emerged from the pandemic.”

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The Tory minister highlighted comments the Labour politicians made in the House of Commons based on the previous figures.

Mr Griffith said: “In fact, Sir Keir, you stood at the despatch box and declared ‘the average French family are a tenth richer, the average German family a fifth richer. Those countries faced the same pandemic and those countries face the same war’.

“You went on to say our economy was ‘brittle’ and ‘weaker’ and ‘less resilient’ than our competitors.

“Rachel, as shadow chancellor you declared at the despatch box the UK was set to experience ‘weaker growth compared with our competitors for bot of the next two years’.”

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Mr Griffith said leadership is “about having the ability to say when you’ve got it wrong”.

He went on: “I notice neither of you have so far seen fit to correct the record.

“I would therefore like to encourage you to take the opportunity to do so, in the House at your earliest convenience.”

Mr Griffith’s letter comes after revised figures released by the ONS last Friday showed that by the last three months of 2021 the economy was 0.6 percent bigger than 2019 levels, compared to a previous estimate that it was 1.2 percent smaller.

The ONS said it was revising its estimate for gross domestic product (GDP) that year after getting access to new data.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt hailed the upwards revision which means the UK’s economy is now believed to have grown by 8.5 percent during 2021.

He said: “The fact that the UK recovered from the pandemic much faster than thought shows that once again those determined to talk down the British economy have been proved wrong.

“There are many battles still to win, most of all against inflation so we can ease cost-of-living pressures on families.

“But if we stick to the plan we can look forward to healthy growth which, according to the IMF (International Monetary Fund), will be faster than Germany, France, and Italy in the long term.”

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