Taking aim at Truss, UK Labour's Starmer unveils 'centre-ground' growth plan

By Elizabeth Piper and Andrew MacAskill

LIVERPOOL, England, Sept 26 (Reuters) - British opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer will lay out on Tuesday his plans to spur economic growth and end what he called a cycle of crisis, saying his party now stood for "sound money" in contrast to the Conservative government.

At his party's annual conference, Starmer will strike at the heart of Prime Minister Liz Truss's plan to revive growth, saying a Labour government would create jobs, improve skills and tackle climate change rather than cut taxes for the wealthiest.

Trying to capitalise on the divide opened up by the government's so-called mini-budget that saw the Conservatives shift to the right with trickle-down economic policies, Starmer will say Labour is once again "the party of the centre-ground" ready for an election due in 2024.

He will say his plans "will require a different way of working - the biggest partnership between government, business and communities this country has ever seen", according to excerpts of his speech.

He will also pledge to stop "this endless cycle of crisis with a fresh start, a new set of priorities and a new way of governing".

Starmer will say he will start his plan to create one million new jobs in towns and cities, bring down energy bills, raise living standards and start to tackle the climate crisis in the first 100 days of a Labour government.

With a new air of confidence, Labour is in a very different place than even a year ago, when battles with leftist supporters of former leader Jeremy Corbyn underscored the deep divisions in the party after a punishing election defeat in 2019.

In a break with the past, Starmer led Labour party members in a rendition of the national anthem at the start of the conference in the English city of Liverpool - the first time the song had been sung at such a gathering in recent memory.

Labour lawmakers are sensing a change in their fortunes, with Andy Burnham, the mayor of the northern city of Manchester, saying the annual get together should be called the "get ready for government conference".

Many Labour members say the Conservative government has done them a favour by unveiling a "growth plan" on Friday that scrapped the top rate of income tax and cancelled a planned rise in corporate taxes, on top of a hugely expensive plan to subsidise energy bills for struggling households and businesses.

The plan sent markets tumbling with the pound plunging to a record low and British bond prices collapsing.

Starmer has said he will reverse the abolition of the top rate of income tax and restore it to 45%, and he will recommit to an Office for Value for Money to oversee taxpayers' money and ensure it is spent in the national interest.

"What we've seen from the government in the past few days has no precedent," Starmer will say. "They've lost control of the British economy - and for what? For tax cuts for the richest one percent in our society." (Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Aurora Ellis)