Sir Keir Starmer is facing calls from some senior allies to rename the flagship ‘green prosperity plan’ proposed by the Labor Party to bring more attention to its impact on the UK economy in terms of opportunities for creating jobs and less on climate change.
The Labor leader is under scrutiny for his policy platform ahead of the general election expected next year as opinion polls give his party a commanding lead over Britain’s ruling Conservatives.
The policy, which would deliver a £140bn stimulus over five years, is by far the largest single spending commitment from the main opposition party. It would mean a Labor government borrowing £28bn each year to spend on accelerating the shift to the UK’s 2050 net zero target by supporting projects including renewable energy schemes and home insulation initiatives
But some senior Labor MPs are concerned that a Labor government would be willing to spend such a large amount of public money on the transition to a low-carbon economy and not on other political priorities.
A member of the shadow cabinet said they wanted the policy to be renamed to reflect voters’ broader priorities, including job creation and the cost-of-living crisis, rather than purely as an environmental issue. label initiative.
“Voters care more about jobs than green things. It was always a mistake to call it the green prosperity plan,” they said, adding that other infrastructure projects could be included in the plan, such as railways or housing. “Some of us now say . . . it should be used for capital expenditures, even if it is not explicitly “green.”
Another Labor MP said: “There is certainly growing tension among frontbenchers about the fact that all this money is being borrowed for green projects and not things like hospitals and schools.”
Other critics have pointed out that similar programs in the US and Australia have failed to mention climate change in their titles.
US President Joe Biden’s “inflation reduction act” is worth $369 billion and offers generous subsidies to low-carbon industries. The Australian government has set up a A$15 billion “national reconstruction fund” to invest in renewables and other advanced industries.
Gary Smith, general secretary of the influential GMB union, one of Labour’s most generous donors, also called for Starmer to focus the scheme on job creation. “We need to stop talking about just transitions and talk about job transitions,” he said.
The GMB leader said he accepted the need for the low-carbon transition, but said there should be more focus on nuclear power and hydrogen.
Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank, said: “It has taken some time, but center-left parties in America, Australia and the UK have moved from doom-mongering about climate change to emphasizing the economic benefits of the transition to clean energy, namely new jobs and production opportunities. That is the right way to reach working class voters.”
Shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband has said throwing billions into the green economy could help Britain “win the global race to good jobs”.
Miliband’s spokesman said: “For Ed, it’s all about jobs. It’s about bills, security, jobs and climate – in that order. We’ve always placed jobs incredibly high on our priority list. I think everyone at Labor agrees that this is first and foremost a jobs plan.”
Party officials said there was no plan to rename the green fund. A spokesman said: “The Labor Party is committed to investing in the industries of the future to bring good jobs and productivity growth to all parts of the country.”
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