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Labour's Green Agenda Will Offer "Clear Dividing Line" With Tories

Making the UK a "clean energy superpower" is one of Keir Starmer's five missions (Alamy)

5 min read

Labour’s deputy national campaign coordinator Ellie Reeves has said the opposition party’s green agenda will be a “clear dividing line” with the Tories at this year’s party conference, which begins in Liverpool today.

Only a month ago, Ellie Reeves, the younger sister of Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, was promoted to a role in the shadow cabinet in a major reshuffle to work alongside National Campaign Coordinator Pat McFadden and lead Labour into the next general election.

This week’s party conference will be her first test in her new role, as the party leadership is determined to set out a positive message that Labour would bring change if they get into government in 2024. 

In the last few weeks, the Conservative government has sought to drive through more dividing lines with Labour, including postponing some of its net zero targets and attacking “hare-brained” road schemes, justifying both by arguing it will save people money during the cost of living crisis. 

In Liverpool this week, Labour politicians will be seeking to advance a counter-narrative by setting out how their policies will differ from those of the Tories. 

Reeves spoke to PoliticsHome ahead of conference at her home in south east London. She said that Labour wants to show that the UK can “lead the way” with a green agenda. 

One of Labour leader Keir Starmer’s missions is to make the UK a “clean energy superpower” and deliver 100 per cent clean power by 2030 with the introduction of a publicly-owned clean energy company called GB Energy, announced at last year's conference.

“Why can't we be the country that is leading the way on infrastructure for electric vehicles, making the batteries for those vehicles, increasing onshore wind and offshore wind… we could lead the way," Reeves said.

“With our plans, you would effectively crowd in private investment to the green industries of the future, creating jobs and at the same time being less reliant on dictators for energy, and bringing down bills. 

“At the moment, we're not leading the way, we're falling behind… and I think that is a very clear dividing line between Labour and the Conservatives.”

However, some environmental protest groups, such as Extinction Rebellion, have criticised Labour for not taking a firm enough stance on green issues. Protesters from the group recently poured fake oil in front of Labour's headquarters in London, demanding the party take "urgent action" to cancel fossil fuel licences.

XR protesters
Extinction Rebellion protested outside Labour HQ in September (Alamy)

Last week, the Rosebank oilfield was given the go-ahead to be granted a new licence for development, despite opposition from scientists and campaigners. Starmer confirmed that if Labour get into government at the next election, the party would not reverse this decision, despite the huge amounts of carbon dioxide that would be omitted by the development. 

At Labour conference, there is some opportunity for members to vote on policy – although new rules will be voted on this year that might restrict the motions that can be brought forwards.

Nonetheless, Reeves said she believed there would be “discussion” around Labour’s Green Prosperity Plan, as well as Labour’s housing policy. 

“It's an important conference, I imagine it is going to be the last conference before a general election,” Reeves said.

“We will be under close scrutiny at the conference, but I'm confident that with the five missions that Keir Starmer has set out, with the fiscal rules that Rachel Reeves has set out, that we're going into the conference in a really strong place, and it will be an opportunity for our Shadow Cabinet just to develop a bit more what Labour in government will do.

“I think it provides, yes, a challenge but also a really good opportunity for us.”

Ellie Reeves
Ellie Reeves was previously a shadow justice minister (Alamy)

Labour is heading into conference buoyed by a landslide victory over the SNP in the Rutherglen and Hamilton by-election in Scotland, with the Labour candidate taking the seat from the SNP with more than twice the amount of votes. 

The upcoming by-elections in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire are the next electoral challenges for Labour, and Reeves will spend a considerable amount of time at conference speaking to local campaigners and attending regional receptions to ensure activists come away with a “positive message”.

Although Mid Bedfordshire has been seen by some as a three-way contest between Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems, Reeves insisted it is Labour’s for the taking. 

“I've been on the ground in Bedfordshire quite a lot. Speaking to voters, there are a lot of people who are incredibly angry with the Conservatives and I've spoken to a number of people that won't be voting Conservative this time and will be voting for Labour,” she said.

“This idea that it's a seat that we should stand aside for the Lib Dems is a nonsense because certainly from both the polls that have come out and from the conversations that I've had on the doorstep, that's not the message that we're getting.

“There's a lot of support for [the Labour candidate] locally, and he's running a really positive campaign. So I think everything is to play for in the constituency.”

Reeves added that Labour were “not in the business of seeking out coalitions”.

“We're going into the general election to win it,” she said.

“We're not complacent about that, there's a lot to do between now and the general election, but conversations about coalitions are simply not where we're at.

“Nowhere is off limits in terms of the electorate, we need to have a positive message for the entire country. Labour isn't just the party of big cities, we want to speak to people across the country about their issues and concerns.”

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