“A Fairer, Greener Future”. If there is one economic message Labour wanted people to take away from their party conference in Liverpool, it is that their plan for growth is a green industrial strategy. The Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, and later the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, used their conference speeches to outline an alternative to Liz Truss’ “trickle-down” vision for growth which Starmer says has “lost control of the economy” and “crashed the pound”. In launching a “Green Prosperity Plan”, Starmer regularly linked growth to the climate, outlining a future in which people look at Labour as the party that “built a fairer, greener, more dynamic Britain by tackling the climate emergency head on and used it to create the jobs, the industries, the opportunities of the future”. The word “mission” was used several times to describe the proposed Green Prosperity Plan, echoing Mariana Mazzucato’s language of a “mission economy” in which productivity, industrial strategy and strong economies are built by a state focus on country-wide missions. In this case, the mission is tackling the climate crisis, with Labour’s 2022 strategy putting meat on the bones of Rachel Reeve’s £28 billion climate pledge last year.
Public services. Starmer focused on public services for much of his speech, saying that “Strong public services are the foundation of a successful economy– always”. Labour have rejected a narrative that spending on public services must be balanced with helping the economy, instead arguing that long NHS waiting lists and expensive childcare are some of the factors undermining economic performance. However, Starmer also warned that while he “would love to stand here and say Labour will fix everything”, the “damage [the Conservatives] have done” will mean that “the rescue will be harder than ever”.
Equality and work. The government’s new economic strategy also opened the space for Labour to make a more philosophical argument about the relationship between equality and prosperity, with Starmer saying that “Britain won’t be better off just because we make the rich, richer”. Inequality and low pay were central to Starmer’s critique of Britain’s low growth, arguing that insecure, low-paid work and public services that can’t support people make for “weak” economic foundations for growing an economy.
Mini-budget fallout. Kwasi Kwarteng’s “mini-budget” last week has been followed by significant political and economic upheaval, leading some to ask if Britain is “now in a full-blown economic crisis?” and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon arguing that this could be worse than the 2008 financial crisis. In a dramatic move on Wednesday, the Bank of England was “forced into emergency action”, reversing its quantitative tightening policy, as it announced that it would set aside £65 billion over coming days “to ease pressure on pension funds and insurance companies”. New Economy Brief will cover this ongoing situation in more detail in our Digest next week.
Colonialism and debt. Debt Justice has launched a new project exploring the link between colonialism and debt, arguing that “the global economy is shaped by a history of exploitation”. With a new set of resources, Debt Justice aims to improve understanding of the colonial history behind debt in several Global South countries.
Childcare guarantee. Ahead of Labour Party conference and announcements on childcare from Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson, the IPPR published a plan for a "childcare guarantee". Recommendations include expanding the Government's core free hours offer to 30 hours per week for all three- and four-year-olds, throughout the year (including school holidays) and the introduction of an "Affordable Hours Scheme covering 60 or 95 per cent of costs for additional hours of care, depending on household income".
Scrapping habitat protections. Government plans to scrap habitat protections are “madness”, says former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s father and former MEP, Stanley Johnson. The Chancellor, Kwasi kwarteng, used his mini-budget to announce 38 “investment zones” where planning restrictions, which affect habitat protections will be lifted, causing conservation groups to brand the move an “attack on nature”.