Labour conference: Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves accuses Rishi Sunak of being ‘missing in action’ amid supply crisis | Politics News


Rachel Reeves has accused Chancellor Rishi Sunak of being “missing in action” during the country’s supply crisis, telling Labour’s conference that the government has “lost control”.

Addressing the party’s gathering in Brighton, the shadow chancellor hit out at the Conservatives over the energy crisis, panic buying at petrol stations and supply chain issues.

“This government is incompetent, this government is in denial, this government is careless and chaotic, and they are responsible for this mess,” she said.

Live updates from the Labour Party conference in Brighton

Rachel Reeves with party leader Sir Keir Starmer after delivering her speech

“Just look at the state of things under the Tories. Empty shelves in our supermarkets, snaking queues at petrol stations, business waiting weeks for materials, the NHS forced to ration blood tests, the government have to issue reassurance that they can even keep the lights on.

“Real anxiety for families and for business. And Rishi Sunak missing in action. The Tories have lost control.

“These problems have been exposed by the government’s Brexit deal, by their response to the pandemic and by a failure to plan for either.”

Speaking to Sky News ahead of her first conference speech in the role, Ms Reeves said Brexit is “obviously a contributory factor” to the shortage of HGV drivers that is having a knock-on effect across the economy.

In the speech itself, the shadow chancellor:

• Pledged to be the first “green chancellor” and invest £28bn a year for the rest of the decade for the country’s green transition, with money focused on “good jobs in the green industries of the future”
• Confirmed pre-briefed announcements that Labour will scrap business rates if it wins the next election as part of the “biggest overhaul of business taxation in a generation”, as well as end charitable status for private schools
• Called for an increase in the digital services tax to 12% for the next year in order to make online firms like Amazon pay their fair share and declared, referring to founder Jeff Bezos: “If you can afford to fly to space, you can pay your taxes here on Earth”

Analysis by Kate McCann, political correspondent

A good number of Labour MPs were hanging their hopes on Rachel Reeves, that her speech would mark a turning point in a conference which has been far more about rhetoric than concrete policy – and the delegates in the hall certainly seemed to enjoy it, cheering and clapping throughout.

But how much was there in terms of new policy voters can latch on to?

A significant climate investment formed the centre of the speech, £28bin investment every year and a bid to be the country’s first green chancellor.

This is a big pledge and it means a lot more borrowing to make it happen. It also takes the fight squarely to the government, challenging Boris Johnson to up his game too.

There was also a nice line on those who earn some of the most money on the planet – “If you can afford to fly to space you can pay your taxes here on earth”, she told the likes of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. That will translate and it’d be hard to find anyone who disagrees.

But the bulk of the speech was language we’ve heard from Labour many times before.

A promise to consult the unions on changes to working practices, not to balance the books on the backs of the lowest earners. A line which climaxed with a pledge to launch a massive program of “insourcing” may not translate for those outside the hall – or even many in it.

There will be some who on re-reading, wonder how much of what Ms Reeves said today was new.

But her delivery was robust, the hall was behind her and the repeated reference to “the everyday economy” hints at where Labour may take its policymaking in the coming months.

This would be a smart move, demonstrating the party understands what those who are in work but feel like every day is an uphill battle really want and need.

But doing that will need chunky policies and a sense that Labour really understands; words like insourcing and talk of removing the charitable status for private schools – while popular in the hall – don’t really mean much.

It’s a different kind of rhetoric to language like “scum”, but some question whether it will be just as unsuccessful when it comes to attracting voters the party needs.

The shadow chancellor told delegates that she wanted to “clean up the Tories’ Brexit mess”.

“I’m more than happy to take on the Tories when it comes to economic competence because I know we can win,” she added.

On taxation, Ms Reeves promised to make the system “fairer” by ensuring that the “burden isn’t just falling on the wages of working people but that those at the top pay their fair share too”.

“I pledge that as chancellor I will not balance the books on the backs of working people,” she said.

Ms Reeves pledged to focus in particular on tax breaks, scrapping any that do not “deliver for the economy or the taxpayer”.

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Will the UK have a winter crisis?

“Here are a couple we will scrap right away. Under the Conservative Party, private equity bosses who asset strip British businesses pay a lower rate of tax on their bonuses than their workers do on their wages,” she said.

“That is indefensible, we will scrap it.”

The shadow chancellor also put firms that have secured COVID contracts on notice, telling them that a future Labour government would expect money back from those that have not delivered.

Hitting out at the Tories’ “pandemic outsourcing bonanza”, she added: “We will set up a team to go through every line of every failed contract where value was not delivered, and claw back every penny of taxpayers’ money we possibly can.

“Because that money belongs in our police. It belongs in our schools and it belongs in our NHS.”

But, elsewhere at Labour’s conference in Brighton, leading MPs from Labour’s left-wing said the party’s pledge of £28bn a year in green capital investment was not sufficient.

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell told a conference fringe event on Monday: “It isn’t enough.”

He said the pledge didn’t match what he himself had proposed when he was in the party’s shadow cabinet.

Former shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey told the same event she was “annoyed with the party” and criticised the Labour leadership for not doing enough on climate issues.

Source : skynews

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