Mr Starmer tested positive for Covid so he was unable to respond to the Budget in the House of Commons or take part Prime Minister’s Questions.
But in a sharply worded response to the Budget, Sir Keir told the Standard the measures announced by the Chancellor would “only make things worse” for millions of families facing a cost of living crisis as inflation and energy bills soar and taxes rise in the spring.
“This country deserves better,” Sir Keir told the Standard. “But they’ll never get it under this Chancellor who gives with one hand — and then takes even more with the other.
“The truth is this: what you get with these two is a classic con game. It’s like one of those pickpocketing operations you see in crowded places.
“The Prime Minister is the front man — distracting people with his wild promises. All the while, his Chancellor dips his hand in their pocket.
“It all seems like fun and games. Until you walk away — and realise your wallet has been lifted.”
Although the economy’s stronger performance is likely to give Mr Sunak billions more to spend over the next three years, economists fear rising inflation and a possible increase in interest rates could hamper the recovery.
Having announced a 1.25 percentage points rise in National Insurance from April in a new £12 billion-a-year health and social care levy, the Chancellor and Prime Minister are keen to build up a war chest so they can cut taxes before the next election, expected in 2024.
But Sir Keir said the Government was loading taxes on working people to pay for what he said was the Government’s mishandling of the pandemic.
The Labour leader also criticised the Government over the economy’s performance, saying the UK had fallen behind other advanced nations, restricting the amount that could be spent on stretched public services.
“The Conservatives are now the party of high taxation. Because the Conservatives are the party of low growth. And they have weakened the economy further by mishandling the pandemic,” Sir Keir added.
“Working people are being asked to pay more for less for three simple reasons: economic mismanagement; an unfair tax system; and wasteful spending.
“Each of these problems is down to 11 years of Conservative failure. And while the Chancellor and the Prime Minister like to pretend they are different, the Budget they’ve delivered today will only make things worse.”