Sir Keir Starmer and Labour’s £28 billion pledge is dead, because optics are more important than hope - Alexander Brown
For what has felt like forever, the Labour party faced questions over its £28 billion green investment, prompting an internal row as to whether saving the planet was worth it.
Now fiscal responsibility has won out, because the politics of hope or meaning what you say is a little gauche, and a bit too The West Wing for times like this.
But on the plus side, we can stop hearing about it. For too long the news cycle has been dominated by the plan, with Labour figures constantly asked about it and giving different answers.
Sir Keir Starmer was adamant it was staying. His shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves was less clear. Other shadow cabinet members believed whatever they wanted, because who needs consensus when you’re planning to run a country.
If it wasn’t interviews, it was stories, with constant headlines about the plan being on, being off, making it the political equivalent of Ross and Rachel from Friends. In the end it’s not so much on a break, as dead in the water.
Labour say the plan was too expensive and the facts had changed. What facts are these? Well primarily the economy is in the mud, which is, of course, entirely new information, and not something we’ve known since Liz Truss took it out the back and had it shot.
Before that there was Brexit and Covid, two events which battered the public purse as well as much of the Tory rights prefrontal cortex.
Having promised this investment since 2021, and defended it as recently as this week, the figure has been essentially halved, with Sir Keir now having more U-turns than policy commitments.
I’m not massively interested in debating the merits of the policy, because it’s not being axed on merit, but optics. With the Conservatives warning it would require tax rises and cost the public more, it was a risk to winning an election.
Labour has chosen an easier ride to win, throwing off a possible anchor around its chances, albeit one that was popular, created jobs and helped address the climate crisis. However, it hasn’t stopped accusations of tax rises, not really. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is still saying the green investment is damaging to the economy, which he would know about, having dished out tax cuts that spiked inflation.
It also gives Labour less to talk about on the doorstep. We know a manifesto is coming, but for so long the £28bn, along with the new deal for working people, was what they had to offer. But what is the message now?
I haven’t been canvassing for a while, but I’m not sure many on the doorstep are desperately hoping for a party that promises to stick to fiscal rules. But then, with this amount of U-turns, a party that sticks to anything is progress.
One of Labour’s flagship policies has been ditched, because the economy is in a bad way. Having just learned this, the party has to find a new promise it can actually keep.
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