Starmer’s business: Labour prepares its path to power
30 Jan 2023
The Labour Party is taking measured and deliberate steps to warm business to its economic thinking, says DRD Senior Analyst Toby Chapman.
Image source: Sky News
Business confidence in Labour will be critical to its ability to win the next General Election, and signs of the Party’s efforts to build its economic case to the private sector were much in evidence at the recent year-starter Fabian Society conference.
Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves delivered an unexpectedly policy-heavy speech. Her headline announcement was that Labour would extend the windfall tax, closing the fossil fuel investment loophole and taxing oil and gas profits at the same rate as Norway. With this, she reiterated her commitment to becoming “Britain’s first green Chancellor”.
Policy not politicking
The message has been clear: Labour is earnestly driving to build out the detail of its policy offering, rapidly and regularly announcing new elements of its policy agenda, in the full knowledge that this will form the backbone of an election manifesto toward the end of this year.
The Labour leadership is enthusiastic about committing the UK to play a greater part on the global stage, evidenced by Keir Starmer’s and Rachel Reeves’ attendance at Davos. It is also alive to the need for discipline and focus as it mobilises ‘Project Victory’, its plan to contest over 8,000 council seats in the May local elections.
Labour is earnestly driving to build out the detail of its policy offering, rapidly and regularly announcing new elements of its policy agenda, in the full knowledge that this will form the backbone of an election manifesto toward the end of this year.
DRD Senior Analyst, Toby Chapman
A government still in waiting
There is a keen appetite across sectors of the party for interventions that are seen to boost wages within the confines of the current economy, such as requiring workers on boards, working with unions and achieving fair pay agreements. However, there is even more enthusiasm for embracing long term structural shifts, and focusing on the practical ways to live up to the ambitions of the Labour industrial strategy.
Labour will no doubt want to continue the significant strides it has made in recent months to improve its relationship with business. The next milestone will need to be the development of well-reasoned, detailed, transparent policy rooted in the strategy itself. Business leaders like the CBI’s Tony Danker have already described key targets of the strategy as “catalytic” public investment, that sends a clear signal to the private sector and gives businesses the confidence and certainty to invest billions more.
Another key thread for the party is devolution. Labour panellists at the Fabian conference lauded an intention to overhaul the process of local funding, with the aim of reducing the involvement of Whitehall decision makers and devolving powers and fiscal competencies to local authorities. It is also actively considering a significant expansion of regional infrastructure projects like HS3, running from Liverpool to Hull and Newcastle.
All eyes will now be looking to the May local elections, and beyond this the National Policy Forum this summer, the consultation for which launches on Monday 30th January, and Annual Conference in October. These will likely be the final opportunities to embed the technical detail of Labour policy within its campaign machinery as it ramps up for the next General Election.