£28bn rowback: Should Labour put climate or electability first?

Tom Belger
Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

And so the great Labour policy rowback continues. One of Labour’s most radical – and expensive – policies to date under Keir Starmer’s leadership has been its £28bn-a-year green prosperity plan, unveiled in 2021. Today Rachel Reeves has watered it down, saying Labour will only “ramp up” spending to reach £28bn in the second half of parliament at the latest. She said it would give time to build the skills and supply chain needed, but also dubbed it “fiscally responsible”.

The retreat follows a bad week of headlines for Labour on its enviromental agenda, with a barrage of attacks from the Conservatives and right-wing press. The Telegraph warned only this morning the “reckless…pledge threatens to plunge Britain deeper into the red”.

Strategies clearly hope the shift will stop the party’s dogged recent efforts to revive its perceived economic credibility unravelling, and end recent briefing and counter-briefing by senior figures that one backbencher dubbed “unacceptable”. Recent polls suggest 37% of ‘Red Wall’ voters still don’t trust Labour at all on the economy, almost as bad as the Tories‘ 40%. But it will disappoint many on the left. Former Jeremy Corbyn adviser Andrew Fisher noted the green prosperity plan was designed to boost the economy rather than threaten it, while the US and EU are making “massive” green investments despite their economic challenges.

The retreat also risks shoring up another key Tory attack line on Starmer’s personal credibility amid so many U-turns, with the Tories now selling Starmer flip-flops. You read that right, though the cabinet should get their orders in as they’re apparently due to water down their own energy windfall tax plans. There were more minor rowbacks elsewhere too today. The Times and Telegraph suggest Labour will hand back donations to two donors following controversies. Meanwhile despite Labour rowing back recently on its radical tone about overhauling the GP system, BMA GP leaders are still concerned and want a meeting to discuss the plans.

In selection news today, would-be candidates can now apply for the Wimbledon and Coombe seat in south-west London, tipped as a Labour gain in Best for Britain’s new poll. Ryan Barnett and Eleanor Stringer were notably quick out of the traps declaring with videos, photos and websites already online last night. Selection-watcher Michael Crick has spoken out over Labour’s “purging” of the left, warning they will eventually recover – and want “vengeance“. Another tipped Labour gain is Brighton Pavillion, and that was before Green MP Caroline Lucas announced her exit at the next election.

Finally, new key Labour attack lines include on the new UK-US ‘partnership‘, with Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy saying the Tories have “failed to deliver the comprehensive trade deal” promised in 2019. Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper says a review of policing is “truly damning”, highlighting “more criminals getting away with crimes, victims let down, vital neighbourhood policing devastated”. She also claims the Tories have “quietly ditched” a policy preventing people arriving on small boats permanently settling, calling it a “damning indictment” of their wider strategy.

Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

More from LabourList


We provide our content free, but providing daily Labour news, comment and analysis costs money. Small monthly donations from readers like you keep us going. To those already donating: thank you.

If you can afford it, can you join our supporters giving £10 a month?

And if you’re not already reading the best daily round-up of Labour news, analysis and comment…