finance

Labour will not ‘throw cash at’ UK’s problems, Keir Starmer to tell CBI


Keir Starmer will make a pitch to win over Britain’s business leaders by promising a Labour government will not simply “throw cash at” the country’s problems.

Speaking to the CBI’s annual conference in the Midlands, Starmer will put fiscal discipline at the heart of his party’s appeal to a sector Labour believes has been alienated by Boris Johnson’s government.

Starmer will tell businesses that Labour “absolutely don’t think that the solution to every problem is to throw cash at it”, promising to run “a stable government and a tight ship”.

He will highlight Rachel Reeves’s tough approach to the public finances, saying: “We will never spend money just for the sake of it.”

He will also announce the creation of a new skills advisory panel, including former education secretary David Blunkett, to ensure Labour has the right policies on preparing young people for work.

Labour has previously attacked the government for wasting billions of pounds during the pandemic on “crony Covid contracts”, as it tries to chip away at the idea that the Conservatives can be trusted with taxpayers’ money.

Reeves, the shadow chancellor, has said a Labour government would set up an “office for value for money”, which will scrutinise government spending decisions before taxpayer resources are committed.

Labour has already made some significant spending pledges, however, including the shadow chancellor’s promise of £28bn of green investment each year until the end of the decade, to facilitate the transition to net zero.

Some business groups have reacted angrily to aspects of government policy in recent months, including the prime minister appearing to blame the private sector for the shortage of HGV drivers that caused a fuel crisis earlier in the autumn.

Starmer will say a Labour government would seek a better long-term deal for hauliers with the EU, as he repeats the call he made in his party conference speech for the government to “make Brexit work”.

Fleshing out that idea, he will say Labour would seek regulatory equivalence for financial services; argue for Britain to maintain its data adequacy status, allowing digital firms to compete with EU rivals; and negotiate for mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

“I believe all of this is achievable by robustly defending our interests, and patiently negotiating,” Starmer will tell his audience.

Starmer has been careful to insist the issue of Brexit cannot be reopened since Labour was comprehensively defeated in the 2019 general election, having himself been instrumental in persuading his party to adopt a pro-second referendum policy.

Labour hopes to unite its remain and leave-supporting voters by highlighting concerns about economic issues, including the rising cost of living, with inflation climbing, and national insurance contributions set to rise in April.

Starmer’s emphasis on fiscal discipline is intended to contrast with the approach of his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader promised his party they will “never again go into an election with a manifesto that is not a serious plan for government”.

He has also said he does not think the big six energy companies should be brought into public ownership, in a rejection of the sweeping nationalisation Labour planned in 2019.

Lord Blunkett will be joined on Labour’s skills advisory panel by former senior civil servant Rachel Sandby-Thomas and businessman Praful Nargund, director of an IVF provider, Create.

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They will tour the country with the shadow education secretary, Kate Green, talking to teachers, children and educational experts.

Blunkett said: “Nothing can be more important than spreading what works, embedding high-quality and inspirational teaching and learning, and adapting a curriculum that provides motivation to young people at every stage, and reassurance to employers that they will have literate, numerate, creative and responsive employees for the future.”

Labour has already announced that it would place careers advisers in every school, and beef up the teaching of digital skills.

“Young people are ambitious, optimistic and excited for their futures. Yet far too many are being let down by a Conservative government that’s living in the past,” Starmer will say.

The CBI conference is being held across multiple sites and will also feature a speech by the prime minister, who is expected to highlight the prospects for green jobs across the economy.



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