Under my watch Labour will never spend what we cannot afford - Rachel Reeves
It will be a chance for Keir Starmer and me to speak directly to the people of Yorkshire – and indeed the country – about the change we can offer Britain and our plans to make working people better off.
Our conference comes a week after the chaos of the Conservatives’ gathering in Manchester. A week where we saw the governing party bogged down in division and chaos, rather than acting in the national interest. A week where Conservatives queued round the block to cheer Liz Truss, rather than apologise to working people for crashing the economy and forcing them to pay the price. And a week when the Conservatives broke their promise to deliver for the north by scrapping HS2.
The decisions taken by Rishi Sunak last week “fuel the views of those who argue that we can no longer think or act for the long-term as a country… that we are heading in the wrong direction.” Those are not my words or the words of a Labour politician. They are the words of one of his predecessors: David Cameron.
It angers me that we have got to this place. I see the huge potential we have as a country every day. There are incredible businesses in my Leeds West constituency that are creating the jobs, investment and opportunities of the future. There are colleges and universities across Yorkshire that are training the next generation of innovators. And teachers, nurses and police officers who are working as hard as they can day-in, day-out in our public services, under extraordinary pressure. However, this potential and hard work is being held back by the chaos and instability of those in power in Number 10.
We have had 13 years of Conservative government, five prime ministers and seven chancellors. People will see through Rishi Sunak’s latest attempt to reset his weak leadership and divided government.
This country does not have an industrial strategy because the Government has no plans to get investment for the businesses of the future here in Yorkshire.
We are not building enough homes because Rishi Sunak scrapped national targets under pressure from his party’s activists. And we risk a rerun of the mini-budget chaos that we saw last year because the policies and ideology of Liz Truss remain the dominant force in the Conservative Party.
The Conservatives cannot deliver the change we need. And the biggest threat to the economy and family finances is yet another five more years of the same.
It falls to the Labour Party – and me as shadow chancellor – to offer the real change that will make a difference to the people of Yorkshire. But, I know that change alone is not enough.
At a time when many of us feel that Britain isn’t working and that the basic services we rely on are not delivering, people want to feel hope – hope that through change we can build a better Britain.
So, let me tell you about that change and the better Britain that the next Labour government would build. As shadow chancellor, it starts with a plan to bring growth back to our economy because that is the only way we can make working people better off.
Our plan – indeed our mission – to secure the highest sustained growth amongst the most advanced economies will be about creating good jobs across every part of the country.
We will back successful local businesses and help high streets to thrive in communities like Pudsey, Selby and Wakefield by requiring online technology giants to pay their fair share.
We will encourage investment in the industries of the future – from battery factories and offshore wind to life sciences and AI – to create good, well-paid jobs across our country.
And we will have a relentless focus on cutting energy bills, revitalising Britain’s industrial heartlands and boosting our energy security to protect us from the actions of dictators like Vladmir Putin by investing in renewable energy.
However, at the heart of my plan for growth is bringing security and stability back to the economy. During my time as an economist at the Bank of England, I learnt a very simple lesson: your sums always have to add up. We saw what happened last year when Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng added billions of pounds of borrowing to the nation’s balance sheet to pay for unfunded tax cuts. So, under my watch, Labour will never spend what we cannot afford. We will not borrow to fund day-to-day spending and we will reduce national debt as a share of the economy. These commitments are non-negotiable.
I know how difficult the past few years have been for our county. The challenges we have faced from the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the cost of living crisis. Rebuilding our country will not come easy and the damage that has been done cannot be underestimated.
However, I remain optimistic that our best days do lie ahead. I believe we do have the skills, businesses and ideas to rebuild, with an economy that is strong, secure and growing.
Over the past four years, Keir Starmer and I have worked hard to change the Labour Party so we can change Britain for the better. At this conference I hope you will see that change and that you will see our plans to give Britain its future back so that working people are better off.
Rachel Reeves is Labour MP for Leeds West and Shadow Chancellor.