She was speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post during a constituency visit to the Kirkstall Forge regeneration site in her first public engagement as Shadow Chancellor.
An economist by profession, she’s previously worked for the Bank of England and British Embassy in Washington before becoming an MP in 2010 – and then chair of Parliament’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.
“I’m learning in this job. I want to listen to people round the country. I’m going to speak to President Joe Biden’s economics team,” said Ms Reeves who admitted to being more nervous than she expected when responding to the Queen’s Speech.
“Also I’m going to use my experience as MP for 11 years because, you know, the conversations I have with people, and have had with people, I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of what people want from government. And what people want for themselves and their families. Labour’s policies have got to be rooted in the lived experience of people, not in grand ideological ideas, but actually rooted in people’s everyday lives and experiences.”
Ms Reeves was phoned by her party’s leader Sir Keir Starmer last Sunday, just as she was putting her children to bed, to be invited to be “Shadow Chancellor and to work with him on his economic priorities – recovering from the virus but building something stronger”.
She immediately cited the 26 blocks of high-rise flats in her constituency – and how the social inequalities suffered by such residents during the lockdown are so different to other families.
She asked an aide, as she tours Kirkstall Forge, to find out why half-hourly train services to the adjacent station have not been reinstated – “it’s just rubbish” – and that mayors like West Yorkshire’s newly-elected Tracy Brabin need more devolved policy powers.
“You change things when decisions are made in the places where those decision have the impact – housing, skills, transport,” she stressed. “Why on earth do we have to go to Treasury ministers to get funding? Why are they making a decision between a park in Wortley and a train station in Wigan? It’s insane.”
Ms Reeves is looking forward to discussing this with Richmond MP Rishi Sunak, the current Chancellor, and who, she says, “seems to do better out of Government schemes than other parts of Yorkshire”.
She also said criticism of her party’s leader is unfair – “connecting via Zoom is not really connecting” – and that Labour can bridge its own divides. “I don’t think people in the North want a lot different from people in the South. What do people want wherever they live?” she said.
“They want a decent job that pays enough to be able to live on, that provides some dignity and security.
“They want to live in a place where they feel proud of, and that is thriving and prosperous, and that gives the opportunities. They also want access to good housing and support for their families when they need it.”
Asked why no female MP has yet served as Chancellor, Ms Reeves said: “I plan to change that. In terms of my career and ambitions, that, for me, would be the most wonderful thing.”
She also said her party can win the next election.
“Bring it on,” she added. “Politics is so volatile. If Labour listens to voters, and puts forward an exciting transformative offer, there’s no reason why we can’t be back in government again, and be there soon.”
MP reveals her ‘phone-a-friend’
RACHEL Reeves says her “phone-a-friend” will be her mother Sally if the political going gets tough.
They normally text over childcare arrangements – and whether her youngest son needs new shoes or PE kit.
“My mum was the first person who texted me after the election results last week,” she disclosed.
“She texted to me ‘I know you will be desperately disappointed Rachel but you know, all the people I speak to, they’re so pleased about the vaccine and unlocking the economy’. But she also said that it doesn’t mean Labour can’t win again.”
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