Economic growth is the essential ingredient to putting Britain back on track - Rachel Reeves

I am an optimist about Britain. I have the privilege of visiting brilliant, creative businesses from across our county and country. The entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists and innovators cannot fail to inspire. They are the glimpse of a better future for Britain.

I see it in my constituency every week. C-Capture which is developing and trialling carbon and capture storage technology at the frontier of the energy transition. The financial services industry in Yorkshire that is providing good jobs and powering growth. Or Sunny Bank Mills which is providing the space for small and medium sized businesses to thrive.

But I know how tough these past few years have been for businesses in Yorkshire. We have had more than ten years of stagnant economic growth. A chaotic exit from the European Union, a global pandemic that forced many businesses to shut and millions of staff to stay at home and conflicts in the Middle East and Europe that have disrupted supply chains and sent the price of goods soaring.

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If these disruptions were not enough, then they have been worsened by the political chaos and instability of the Conservatives.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves addressing 400 business leaders at the Kia Oval, London. PIC: Stefan Rousseau/PA WireShadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves addressing 400 business leaders at the Kia Oval, London. PIC: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves addressing 400 business leaders at the Kia Oval, London. PIC: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

In the 14 years the Conservatives have been in power we have had five prime ministers, seven chancellors and nine business secretaries.

A week does not go by when we do not read in the newspapers talk of another plot to take down the prime minister or a minister having to be sacked because of scandal. It is a farce – and it is damaging our economy.

It infuriates me when I speak to businesses and they tell me that they want to invest in the UK, but they are choosing not to because of the chaos in Westminster.

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Major international companies are going to list in New York or Paris over us because of the political uncertainty. Infrastructure projects are being delayed or cancelled because of failures by the government to reform our outdated planning laws. Or investment opportunities drying up because of the chopping and changing of government ministers.

These are not symptoms of a healthy economy, but of a failing economy – with working people worse off and families being left to pay the price. We can do so much better than this – Yorkshire can do so much better than this. That is why it is time for a change.

Keir Starmer and I have made growing our economy the number one mission for the next Labour government. I know growth can sometimes seem like an abstract concept. A line on a graph or a percentage point read out on the evening news. But economic growth is the essential ingredient to putting more money in people’s pockets, creating good jobs that pay a decent wage and to funding our public services, like the NHS.

However, delivering that growth cannot be done by the government alone. Long-term sustainable growth can only be achieved through a new partnership between government and business.

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We have seen what we can deliver as a country when that partnership works well. During the pandemic, for example, it was the government and the NHS working together with universities and pharmaceutical companies that brought us the first vaccine against the coronavirus. I want that partnership model to be the norm, not the exception. I want business to be in the room when policies are being written and plans are being announced. We have got to end the model of Westminster knows best.

That was my message this week to our party’s business conference. We are a changed Labour Party. We are pro-worker and pro-business. These are words backed up by actions.

For example, it is why I have pledged to invest alongside business through a new National Wealth Fund to create wealth, jobs and opportunity here in Yorkshire. For every £1 that is put in from the fund £3 will be leveraged from the private sector. It is why I have promised to tear down the barriers of our antiquated planning system so we can build the homes and infrastructure of the future. And it is why I have promised to support our high streets and small businesses by replacing our outdated system of business rates with a fair system fit for a modern economy.

This is a serious plan for growth to break us out of this period of economic decline. It is a serious plan to help tackle the cost of living by putting more money in people’s pockets. It is a serious plan that will make a real difference to families in our country. And it is a serious plan to spread prosperity across Yorkshire’s towns, villages and cities.

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These are difficult times and I know how angry people feel about the chaos they see in Westminster. But this year people will have the chance to vote for change. To vote for a changed Labour Party that will put working people first and has a serious plan to make them better off.

Rachel Reeves is Labour MP for Leeds West and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.

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