Starmer used his keynote speech at the Labour party conference to launch plans for a publicly owned energy company.
Against the backdrop of economic chaos and a collapse in the value of sterling, Keir Starmer has unveiled Labour’s plan to fix the economy – that will also, handily, tackle the climate crisis, lower energy bills and create future-proof jobs all in one.
His solution? Green job investment. A “fairer, greener Britain”.
Labour’s Green Prosperity Plan, trailed throughout the party’s conference in Liverpool and unveiled by Starmer in his keynote speech, is ambitious. The UK will be 100 per cent powered by clean energy by 2030, he said, with a publicly-owned Great British Energy leading the charge.
He has committed to turning the “UK into a green growth superpower” and bringing new, sustainable, green jobs to all parts of the country, all starting within the first 100 days of a new Labour government.
But is all this too ambitious, too good to be true?
Campaigners have reacted with an audible sigh of relief. Finally. But it’s all a little light on detail.
“Finally the Labour party is realising that you can tackle the climate crisis through investment that grows communities”, said Fatima Ibrahim from Green New Deal Rising, a youth campaign group which has been campaigning for Labour to adopt a transformative Green New Deal.
“Now we need to see the details of how they plan to achieve this ambitious target.”
Greenpeace UK’s head of politics, Rebecca Newsom, was also supportive. “The only way out of this mess is a moonshot mission to roll out a renewables based energy system that can lower bills, cut emissions, create jobs and break our dependence on gas markets and fossil fuel autocrats,” she said.
“Labour seems to have understood that, the Conservatives don’t.”
How the country gets there exactly, is still up in the air and the people have noticed. Just a third of people surveyed by Comres ahead of Starmer’s speech said Labour had produced clear policy ideas. There was precious little to increase that share in what he said.
“There must be a plan to ensure the increased investment in renewable energy translates to good quality green jobs,” said Ben Harrison, director of the Work Foundation think tank at Lancaster University.
“Coordination with businesses, sector bodies, local government and employment support providers will be essential to ensuring people across the country have access to secure, long-term green job opportunities,” he told The Big issue.
This is, in theory anyway, how Starmer has set out his stall.
The Green Prosperity Plan will be “the biggest partnership between government, business and communities this country has ever seen,” he proclaimed. “It will mean new jobs – more than a million new jobs, training for plumbers, electricians, engineers, software designers, technicians, builders.”
And Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has promised to be “Britain’s first green chancellor” with her first act to be the introduction of a National Wealth Fund, earmarking £8 billion for building new green infrastructure including “clean” steel plants, battery factories and “renewable ready” ports.
“The next Labour government will create a national wealth fund so that when we invest in new industries, in partnership with business the British people will own a share of that wealth and the taxpayer will get a return on that investment,” she announced on the conference’s second day.
It’s the kind of policy think tanks like The Institute for Public Policy Research have long advocated for. “Not only would this increase the UK’s dire levels of investment, it would give every citizen of the country a share of the UK’s future economic growth”, said Dr George Dibb, head of IPPR’s centre for economic justice.
“By investing in projects that set a clear direction towards net zero, this could catalyse private sector investment and decisively shift our economy on to a dynamic new trajectory that will deliver sustainable growth for the benefit of all,” he continued.
The British Chambers of Commerce, too, has welcomed the Labour Party’s ambition to build British industry via a National Wealth Fund which would emphasise energy and climate investments.
“The shadow chancellor’s announcement shows that Labour has a business plan for the future, with a strong commitment to investing in growth industries,” said Shevaun Haviland, director general at the BCC.
With economic growth at the top of everyone’s immediate wish-list, it seems that Starmer has read the room. But without direction for how the plans will be delivered, even the most committed supporters of a green revolution have been left wanting more.