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Labour Creates Joint Shadow Treasury-Net Zero Role As Green Economics Faces Scrutiny

Shadow cabinet pictured in September 2023 (Alamy)

3 min read

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and shadow net zero secretary Ed Miliband have appointed a joint ministerial assistant, as the party's green spending plans have come under scrutiny.

Alistair Strathern, who was elected to be Labour MP for Mid-Bedfordshire in a tense by-election in October, has been appointed to the role of joint parliamentary private secretary to the two shadow cabinet members. 

“I’m really excited to be taking on the dual role of PPS to Rachel Reeves and to Ed Miliband," Strathern told PoliticsHome. “I’m looking forward to drawing on my experience at the Bank of England and in climate finance to support the important work of both teams in the run up to a general election.” 

A Labour source told PoliticsHome: "Securing our economy and tackling climate change go hand in hand. Labour will deliver the economic growth we need to cut bills, create new green jobs and provide energy security for Britain – and put a stop to the decade of decline we’ve seen under the Conservatives."

The costing of Labour’s headline climate policy, the Green Prosperity Plan, has faced significant scrutiny since its inception, with the Conservatives frequently characterising it as a "spending spree" in an attempt to discredit Labour's economic proposals. 

According to the Parliament website, a PPS is "selected from backbench MPs as the 'eyes and ears' of the minister in the House of Commons". 

Before being elected, Strathern worked at the Bank of England with a focus on climate, which is understood to be seen as beneficial to both briefs. 

In 2021 Labour pledged to spend £28bn a year in the transition to a greener economy with plans such as insulating homes and building low carbon infrastructure. The figure is now understood to be a target that the party would work towards during its first parliamentary term, if fiscal restrictions allow for it, despite claims made to The Sun Labour insiders had said the party leadership planned to ditch the target entirely. 

A Labour spokesperson said that the party remained committed to the Green Prosperity Plan, and that annual investment would reach £28bn in the second half of the parliament "subject to our fiscal rules". 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak criticised Labour leader Keir Starmer over the plan during this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, when he questioned how the policy will be paid for. 

“We all know the answer, higher taxes for the British people,” Sunak told the Commons. 

Starmer had to refill a number of frontbench positions last autumn when some shadow ministers and PPSs quit roles to vote for a ceasefire in Gaza. 

Strathern has been the MP for Mid-Bedfordshire since October, but announced last week that he would stand in the seat of Hitchin at the general election when boundary changes come into place. 

"Continuing to stand to represent all of this community is impossible," Strathern said in a video posted on social media. 

"I'll be re-standing again in my home constituency," he said, "but this time it will be the new constituency of Hitchin." 

An MRP poll by YouGov and shared with The Telegraph earlier this month suggested that the new Hitchin seat would be won by the Conservatives, on 32 per cent, with Labour on 27 per cent. 

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