Keir Starmer takes on Tories with ‘buy British’ economic plan | Labour

Labour has announced a new post-Brexit economic vision for the UK involving ambitious plans to “make, sell and buy more in Britain” as it seeks to build a strongly patriotic policy platform with which to take on the Tories.

Emboldened by its morale-boosting victory in Thursday’s Batley and Spen byelection, in which the party halted Tory advances into its strongholds in traditional manufacturing areas, the move marks the opening shot in a new campaign to be led by Keir Starmer focused on jobs and the battle against crime in all local communities.

In her first major intervention since being appointed shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves also said that Labour would ensure far more public contracts are awarded to British businesses, as opposed to handing them to overseas firms. This would be tied in with an emphasis on securing more high-skilled UK jobs for the future in the green, financial technology, digital media and film sectors, and other industries in this country.

Since Starmer, who was strongly against Brexit, became leader, his party has lacked a clear economic argument. Meanwhile, the Tories have pursued the goal of what they call “global Britain”, identifying new trade deals to replace UK access to the EU single market.

Reeves’s idea aims to develop a more realistic plan than that advanced by the Conservatives, but with an equally patriotic message at its heart. Under the plan – one of the boldest since Starmer became leader – every public body in the country would be told to award more contracts to British firms, underpinned by a new law that would require public organisations to give details of how much they are buying from UK firms, large and small.

Labour would also institute an immediate review of all major public infrastructure projects – such as rail and road works – to identify how more materials could be provided from the UK and how UK workers could be “up-skilled” to work on them. In the award of contracts, public sector organisations would also have to examine the “social” as well as the economic benefits of any projects, including what they would do for local areas and job creation.

Reeves highlighted a series of recent government decisions in which major contracts have gone to overseas companies without consideration of the positive effects on local communities of keeping the work in this country.

Examples included the award of a contract to make new blue UK passports to a French company, which led to the loss of 171 jobs in Gateshead. Labour will also highlight how only one UK-based firm was shortlisted for £2.5bn of contracts for track and tunnel systems of the new HS2 high speed rail network.

Reeves said the post-Brexit, post-pandemic world offered new opportunities for a radical rethink of attitudes to job creation, raising standards and developing skills.

“As we recover from the pandemic, we have a chance to seize new opportunities and shape a new future for Britain,” she declared.

“Labour will get our economy firing on all cylinders by giving people new skills for the jobs of the future here in the UK, bringing security and resilience back to our economy and public services, and helping our high streets thrive again.

“Post-pandemic and post Brexit, we should be rethinking how we support our businesses, strengthen our supply chains and give people the skills they need to succeed. The decade ahead is crucial.”

On a victory visit to Batley and Spen after first-time candidate Kim Leadbeater held the seat for Labour in a byelection, Keir Starmer stressed the value of communities.

In the coming weeks he will tour the country stressing the need to protect local people from crime and boost their job prospects with the emphasis on making, selling and buying more in Britain. He announced: “My message is, when the Labour party sticks to its core values, is rooted in its communities and pulls together, we can win just as we’ve won here. This is the start, Labour is back.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady welcomed the move saying: “We need to build a fairer and more resilient economy as we emerge from this pandemic. That means strengthening UK manufacturing and investing in homes, transport and other vital infrastructure.

“The TUC has been campaigning for government to use public money to create decent jobs in every part of Britain. It’s great to see that Labour is taking forward this agenda too.”

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