Labour’s shadow chancellor has set out a “pro-business” plan for the UK economy aimed at moving away from the polices of former leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Rachel Reeves said Labour – and not the Conservatives – were now the party of business, in a speech in Bury.
She was introduced by Bury South MP Christian Wakeford, who has defected from the Conservatives to Labour.
Mr Wakeford announced his decision to switch sides moments before Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
He dramatically crossed the floor in the House of Commons before Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced calls to quit and tough questions over Downing Street parties when Covid-19 rules applied.
Speaking at the Met theatre in Bury, Mr Wakeford said: “Only Labour are coming up with solutions” to the cost-of-living crisis, recovery from the pandemic and security.
Labour was “ready to provide an alternative government that this country can be proud of” and had become “the party of economic competence,” he added.
Tory MPs have criticised Mr Wakeford for defecting, with some suggesting it had been a mistake and others saying it had united the Conservative Party.
But Ms Reeves said it was a privilege to welcome Mr Wakeford to the party. Earlier, the shadow chancellor said she didn’t see a need for a by-election in Bury South as constituents voted for the “name of the candidate”.
“He has looked at the Conservative Party and sees that they’re no longer fit to lead,” Ms Reeves told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.
“He looks at the Labour Party under Keir Starmer, he sees that the Labour Party has changed.”
‘A new contract’
In her speech, Ms Reeves set out a five-point plan for a stronger economy:
- Ensure the jobs and industries are based in the UK through a £28bn climate investment pledge
- Support entrepreneurs by setting a target to create 100,000 new businesses over the next five years
- Restore visa-free touring for musicians, secure veterinary agreements to relieve the challenges facing the food and drink industry, and negotiate a deal to ensure mutual recognition of professional qualifications
Ms Reeves, a former Bank of England economist, said Labour’s plan called for a “new contract between government and the British people”.
In an interview with the Financial Times ahead of her speech, Ms Reeves said Labour needed to reassure voters it had moved away from Mr Corbyn’s leadership.
The MP for Leeds West since 2010 was appointed shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when Sir Keir became Labour leader in 2020, before being promoted to the role of shadow chancellor of the Exchequer in May 2021.
As Labour leader Mr Corbyn, who remains suspended from the party and currently sits as an independent, fought two general elections on a socialist policy platform, advocating the nationalisation of key industry and welfare increases.
When asked about Ms Reeves’ criticism, the prime minister’s official spokesman said his government had supported the economy throughout the pandemic.