The Labour leader used a speech on Thursday to call for a new “partnership” between business and the state as the country rebuilds from the coronavirus crisis.
He said next month’s Budget represents a “fork in the road” for society, with a chance to reject the “insecure and unequal economy” of the past and “begin a new chapter in the history of our country”.
Starmer warned Conservative MPs “simply don’t believe that it’s the role of government to tackle inequality or insecurity”.
“I fear that the Conservatives are incapable of seizing this moment. That what we will get on March 3 will be short-term and it won’t even be a fix,” he said.
One MP on Labour’s left-wing told HuffPost UK of Starmer’s speech: “If that’s the new chapter then people won’t be rushing out to buy the book.”
But Starmer said while it was right to support the government when it took the correct action to deal with the pandemic, such as imposing lockdowns, “we have challenged them when we thought they were getting it wrong”.
“I don’t think that’s soft, I think that’s the national interest,” he said. “I think the public would say, in a time like this, you back the things that the government is doing right and you challenge things that you think they are getting wrong.”
Accusing the prime minister of setting out a “roadmap to yesterday”, Starmer said Labour would extend the furlough scheme, end the pay the freeze for key workers and not cut the £20 uplift to Universal Credit.
Labour said people investing their savings in its recovery bond would see it used to rebuild communities and supporting businesses across the country after the pandemic through the new National Infrastructure Bank.
The Bank of England has estimated that by June 2021 households will accumulate £250bn in savings. But it expected on only around 5% of the savings will be spent.
Starmer said his “British recovery bond” was a “longer-term, secure way of investing” for people to see a return on their investments that would also help “build the infrastructure of the future”.
He also said a Labour government would increase support available for new businesses to help create 100,000 start-ups over the next five years.