Labour ups focus on business as NEC appoints Liverpool officer for ‘clean up’

Sienna Rodgers
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MPs from across the chamber paid tribute to David Amess yesterday. The late parliamentarian was described as not only a “hyper-assiduous constituency MP”, but also a friendly and warm person with many funny anecdotes. There was discussion of policy, too. After Boris Johnson announced that Southend would be awarded city status, Amess’ friend Mark Francois called on ministers to “drain the Twitter swamp” with a new “David’s law” that would see the online safety bill toughened up. Priti Patel and Dominic Raab have both indicated that they are open to the idea of banning anonymous social media accounts. Keir Starmer used his speech on Amess in part to point out: “Civility in politics matters. But we must not lose sight of the fact that David’s killing was an act of terror on the streets of our country.”

Labour has an opposition day debate today. Its motion highlights one of the key policies announced by Rachel Reeves at conference last month: Labour would eventually scrap business rates altogether, but in the meantime recommends freezing them and extending the threshold for small business rates relief next year. The opposition party has said it would pay for these measures by increasing the UK digital services tax from 2% to 12% for 2022/23, raising £2.1bn. While working with Usdaw and other trade unions to support the high street, the leadership is also making a clear effort to win the backing of business leaders. Recent polling suggests that the top priority for businesses is tax reform to level the playing field between them and online retailers.

In internal party news, the Liverpool Echo has revealed that Sheila Murphy, a former Labour ‘super director’, has been appointed as the ‘Liverpool officer’. She will oversee a ‘clean up’ of the party locally, in light of the Caller Report and Labour’s own report that found evidence of “bullying”, “misogyny” and a “toxic culture” there. The pick has proved controversial with the Labour left: Murphy quit the party in 2019 after 49 years as a member, compared it to being “in an abusive relationship” and declared support for Change UK. Leadership critics have been unhappy about the management of Liverpool council selections, too, from which they say left candidates were shut out. The Labour report over the summer said the national executive committee (NEC) would control selections until June 2026.

Local parties have been told that canvassing can resume today following a suspension of all Labour campaigning after the killing of Amess. It is understood that there will be another pause for his funeral. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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