Writing Britain’s new economic chapter

By James Frith

Earlier today, Sir Keir Starmer gave his biggest speech yet on Britain’s economic future in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. This was more analysis than shopping list with just two new specific policy ideas announced — A British Recovery Bond for those with savings from the pandemic lending it to the government for big projects to help address the inequalities he seeks to fix, and 100,000 new start up loans across the country.

A quick-fire of his views included; this being no time for austerity or tax rises for businesses or families, a Key Workers pay rise, no cut to the increased rate on Universal Credit, the need for the government to take a long-term view on economic recovery whilst repeating Labour’s call to extend business rate relief and the VAT cut for hospitality.

For businesses looking to re-engage with the Labour Party, there is plenty to consider reading between the policy announcements.

In his strongest passage yet on business and Labour’s economic priorities under his leadership to date, Sir Keir leaned on the principle of partnership as his vision for a new deal with business – a partnership between the government he hopes to lead and the businesses he knows he needs.

He talked of his belief in an active, enterprising government, but that a government cannot do this on their own, and so, his is a pledge of a new partnership with British business. A new chapter. Asserting that, businesses know the days of ignoring their climate change and social responsibilities are over. And that Labour has high expectations of business and business has high expectations of Labour.

In analysis, the public may yet not be ready to hear. He argued that the pandemic had been worse than it might have been because of the ideological decisions taken by the Conservative government in the previous decade. That the consequences of this ideology had been exposed by the pandemic, which itself had highlighted the deepening inequality across society. Sir Keir knows the public is still cutting the government slack on the pandemic and that the success of the vaccine is the news we’re all readier to hear than the Ministerial mistakes to date.

Sir Keir called this pivotal moment a fork in the road for Britain’s economy as he attempts to attract more with the new chapter he is writing for Labour. This speech builds on his personal testimony to his dad, a toolmaker, and his understanding of private enterprise and how it embraces risk and creates reward. It's a step on from a very business-friendly sentiment offered to the CBI at their annual conference.

Businesses should test the mettle and sincerity of the Labour Leader’s call to expect more from his Party and raise expectations with the challenge and offer to engage. Sir Keir cited large corporate sectors of science, tech, British manufacturing and the green industries as those primed for quick growth and early activity from a future Labour government. All would be supported and aided to ensure they increase the environmental good they do, the green jobs they enable, and the growth they can deliver.

James Frith is Senior Counsel at Atticus Communications and a former MP for Bury North. He can he contacted at JFrith@atticuscomms.com

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