Reeves highlights Tory sleaze as MPs prepare to grill Cameron over Greensill

Elliot Chappell
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Rachel Reeves had her first outing as Shadow Chancellor yesterday. Criticising the Queen’s Speech as “thin”, she told Rishi Sunak that “the challenges and opportunities facing our country are great, yet what the government is putting forward is small”. Setting out her alternative vision, she said: “Tackling the climate emergency, making sure that all our town centres are thriving and prosperous, supporting British industry and rights for workers – those would have been Labour’s economic priorities.” In a robust review of the mishandling of the pandemic, she juxtaposed the underfunding of the NHS, pay cuts for health staff, rising household debt and the millions “inexplicably” excluded from Covid economic support against Tory sleaze. “Why has the Chancellor ignored their cries for help?” Reeves asked. “Is it because they didn’t have his phone number?”

Talking of sleaze, David Cameron will appear before the Treasury select committee this afternoon. The former Conservative Prime Minister will be questioned over the collapse of Greensill Capital and his lobbying on behalf of the finance company. Businessman Lex Greensill appears to have been hired as an adviser by the then PM, and subsequently employed Cameron when he left office. The former PM then lobbied on behalf of Greensill and arranged access to cabinet officials and ministers, including texting Sunak and arranging drinks with Matt Hancock. The session today follows the publication of messages from Cameron showing the extent of his efforts.

Mark Drakeford is expected to reshuffle his cabinet today. After having been returned to the Senedd with 30 seats, a working majority, Welsh Labour can govern alone rather than bringing in other parties. But Drakeford will need to find a new education minister after Lib Dem Kirsty Williams stood down ahead of the vote last week. And, according to the BBC, counsel general Jeremy Miles could be up for a bigger role, as could deputy minister for housing and local government Hannah Blythyn and deputy minister for economy and transport Lee Waters. You can read my interview with Waters ahead of the election last week, and LabourList spoke to Miles earlier this year. The new cabinet will have to meet soon after being formed to finalise the Covid restrictions review on Friday.

Meanwhile in Scotland, Airdrie and Shotts residents are heading back to the polling booth. Following the resignation of SNP MP Neil Gray, who successfully stood as the MSP for the area last week, voters are today picking their new UK parliamentary representative. Labour MPs held the seat from its creation, including former Home Secretary John Reid and former Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell, until 2015 when Gray was elected. Gray saw his majority reduced to just 195 votes in 2017, before winning the seat again in 2019 by a margin of 5,201. Councillor Kenneth Stevenson is on the ballot paper for Scottish Labour. Counting will take place overnight and we can expect a result early Friday morning.

In other Labour news, Kim Leadbeater, sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, has confirmed her interest in replacing Tracy Brabin as MP. Brabin is leaving parliament following her election as mayor of West Yorkshire, having held the Batley and Spen seat since 2016. Labour has a similar size majority in the constituency to the one held in Hartlepool before it lost the by-election last week. While Labour’s ruling body drew up a longlist of one for Hartlepool, deputy leader Angela Rayner has said that the Batley and Spen candidate must be selected by local members. You can see who is thought to be standing in our runners and riders piece, which we will keep updating as the situation develops.

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