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18 January 2024

How Labour is quietly burying its £28bn green spending pledge

The party is desperate to avoid being painted as a party of higher taxes.

By Freddie Hayward

Labour’s five missions for government received a lot of criticism for being abstract and unsellable when they were first announced. And rightly so: the “fastest growth in the G7” isn’t the type of slogan that taps into the concerns of ordinary voters. Normal people aren’t au fait with the forums that prop up the international rules-based order. Nor does “economic growth” obviously translate into more money at the end of the month, or better public services. It is a phrase for an internal list of objectives, not something to parade on the campaign trail.

Perhaps that’s why Labour, in a new campaigning document, has renamed its growth mission “Get Britain building again”. It’s a smart move. The new slogan proposes an active solution to the general sense that the country is stagnating.

The mission to achieve clean power by 2030 has received the same treatment. That has become “Switch on Great British Energy”. This could be transformative. YouGov polling shared with the New Statesman last year found 74 per cent of people were in favour of a publicly owned renewable energy company. I wrote at the time:

“Opinions were more evenly split on Labour’s plan to invest £28bn a year in clean energy until 2030. While more than half of people (51 per cent) supported the policy, a significant minority (31 per cent) were opposed, including 48 per cent of Leave voters and 50 per cent of 2019 Conservative voters. Fintan Smith, political researcher at YouGov said: “Though around half support the idea, the public is most sceptical of Labour’s commitment to triple current spending on climate measures, with a large minority opposing the commitment.”

This is the latest sign that Labour is slowly removing “£28bn” from its campaign lexicon. The figure doesn’t appear in the document. That’s probably because the Tories see it as an important weapon to use against Labour in their inventory for the campaign. Jeremy Hunt seems to spend most of his time tweeting that the plan means Labour will increase taxes.

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In terms of the politics (which is separate to whether you support the policy), framing the green prosperity plan in terms of Great British Energy makes sense. Sticking a Union flag on the first pylon they erect wouldn’t go amiss, either.

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