© Reuters. Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in London

LONDON (Reuters) – The British state must take a bigger role in supporting businesses and the public just like it did in the aftermath of World War Two, opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer will set out in a speech on Thursday.

Starmer, who took over as leader of the main opposition to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party in 2020, will sketch out his alternative vision for the country’s post-Brexit and post-COVID future.

“I believe people are now looking for more from their government – like they were after the Second World War,” Starmer will say according to advance extracts of his speech.

“They’re looking for government to help them through difficult times, to provide security and to build a better future for them and their families.”

His speech comes amid criticism from some quarters that his leadership has failed to inspire the British public, even as Johnson’s government oversee a stuttering response to a pandemic that has inflicted worse economic damage and more deaths on Britain than its European peers.

Next month, Conservative finance minister Rishi Sunak will set out a budget plan expected to underline the eye-watering cost of supporting the British economy through the pandemic.

Sunak is expected to defer most of the toughest decision about how to pay for that support.

Starmer will argue that the crisis has paved the way for a permanently larger state, calling on Sunak to extend some of the temporary support programmes for low earners and businesses forced to close by lockdown restrictions.

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“To invest wisely and not to spend money we can’t afford. Those are my guiding principles. But I think that COVID has shifted the axis on economic policy: both what is necessary and what is possible have changed,” he will say.

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