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19 June 2023

Keir Starmer turns the environment into an issue of economics

The Labour leader wants “British power for British jobs”.

By Freddie Hayward

Blame the nimbys for climate change. That’s the message from the Tony Blair Institute this morning. Meanwhile, Keir Starmer is in Edinburgh capitalising on the woes of the SNP by restating his mission to make the UK’s energy system net zero by 2030.

The Labour leader will recommit to overturning the effective ban on onshore wind in the first few months of a Labour government, quicken permission for infrastructure projects, and place a net zero obligation on local authorities and regulators. But will there be any mention of the increasingly caveated £28bn-a-year investment in green technology? It isn’t mentioned in the pre-briefed document.

Back to that report from Blair. It calls on Labour to change the planning system so that local consent is no longer needed for big infrastructure projects, such as wind farms. Starmer was coy about committing to that on the media round this morning. The strategy appears to be more carrot than stick. Labour would provide financial incentives for local authorities, support from the party’s planned public company GB Energy, as well as forcing them to volunteer areas suitable for renewable energy.

As for the politics: the speech signals that the party has pivoted from selling the plan in terms of the environment to cheaper bills, jobs and energy security. Starmer will say: “A new plan for a new settlement. A clear direction across all four nations. Pulling together for a simple, unifying priority: British power for British jobs.”

This is wise given the economy is expected to dominate the next election and will help placate the unions. It’s worth remembering you can sell policies in different ways without changing the policy itself.

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[See also: Is Angela Rayner being frozen out by Keir Starmer?]

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