Keir Starmer will urge the nation to support NHS nurses by voting Labour in May’s local and regional elections.
Launching the party’s election campaign on Thursday, he will attempt to turn the poll on a referendum on the Government’s decision to offer NHS workers including nurses a 1% pay increase. As inflation is expected to rise above 1%, this is a pay cut in real terms.
Council elections are taking place on May 6 including in Dudley, Walsall, Sandwell, Solihull, Coventry and Wolverhampton. The West Midlands Mayor, who serves these six councils as well as Birmingham, is also being elected.
Sir Keir will say: “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.
“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 also make a point of distancing himself from former leader Jeremy Corbyn, saying: “This is a different Labour Party, under new leadership and we’re making a different offer to the British people.”
Labour MPs have kept up pressure on the Government over NHS pay.
Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood, said: “It is an utter disgrace that one minute the Chancellor is standing on the steps of Downing Street clapping our carers in the NHS and the next he is slapping them in the face with a real-terms pay cut. The efforts our NHS workers have put in to keep us safe throughout this pandemic is second to none and many have made the ultimate sacrifice for us; they must be properly reimbursed for their dedication.”
Liam Byrne, Labour MP for Hodge Hill and the party’s candidate for West Midlands Mayor, said he had written to the Prime Minister following a meeting with local nurses.
He said: “What shone through was their commitment, experience and skill. They really want the very best for their patients
“But what we also found, was their genuine shock and despair at the impact on themselves and their patients of the morale sapping government decision to offer nurses a derisory 1% increase.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the pay decision in the House of Commons. However, he also stressed that the Government would look at the recommendations of an independent pay review body.
He said: “We’re increasing pay for nurses, we’re massively increasing our investment in the NHS.”