Labour will look for ‘radicalism’ through reform rather than risk fiscal slip-up – best news


In a week of row backs from her party over reinstating the cap on bankers’ bonuses and pouring up to £28bn a year into green energy, Angela Rayner is one Labour politician standing her ground.

In Scotland to promote her “new deal for workers”, the deputy leader doubled down on her pledges.

They include ending “fire and hire”, zero-hours contracts, and bringing in single status worker – to give all workers full employment rights from day one of being employed and end “bogus self-employment” for those working typically in the gig economy – in the first term of a Labour government.

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“I think the most important thing we need at the moment is this crucial change in the employment contract, between employers and the workers, because far too often people are now in insecure work, which is damaging our economy,” Ms Rayner told Sky News.

She was speaking in an exclusive interview as she reiterated her commitment to setting down legislation for her “new deal for workers” in the first 100 days of a Labour government and follow through on all the pledges.

“We will bring in single status of worker,” she told me. “We will end bogus self-employment. That is our mission as part of the New Deal.”

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For a Labour Party that is sticking to Conservative-style fiscal rules, there is little scope for setting itself apart when it comes to tax or spend.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves this week announced Labour will cap corporation tax for big business at 25% for the remainder of the next parliament, on the back of also ruling out increasing wealth taxes.

Radical instincts have been set aside as Sir Keir Starmer and co carry the Ming vase, inscribed with “economic credibility” across the polished floor, terrified of any slip-up.

But Ms Rayner, once the left firebrand now tamed by the taste of power, is still pushing radicalism through workers rights’ reforms – and the Tories don’t want to attack it for fear of siding with big business against workers in an election that will be shaped by the cost of living crisis.

Reforms that are flying largely below the radar, Sir Keir alluded to the potential scale of the change at Labour’s annual business summit this week.

“I want to be crystal clear about this,” he said. “We are going to level up workers’ rights in a way that has not been attempted for decades, and that might not please everyone in the room or the wider business community.”

Keir Starmer addressing 400 business leaders at the Kia Oval.
Pic: PA
Keir Starmer addressed 400 business leaders at a Labour business event this week. Pic: PA

Without typical Labour levers of tax or spend, reform will be a big element of the party’s offer to voters at the next general election, be it workers’ rights or planning reforms to build more homes.

Both areas sit in Ms Rayner’s portfolio.

And Labour does need to offer something radical.

As the deputy’s trip to Scotland shows, this is a party trying to ride two very different horses – a more conservative England and a progressive Scotland – as they look for that parliamentary majority.

Up here in Scotland, the workers’ plan is something Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar can sell on the doorstep as he comes under fire from the SNP over other Labour decisions, such as the two-child cap on child benefit and Ms Reeves’s announcement this week that she wouldn’t cap bankers’ bonuses.

It’s a decision he opposes.

“I said at the time when the Tories made the decision that it was another example of an economically illiterate and morally bankrupt Tory government that has the wrong priorities, and I stand by that,” he told me on Friday.

“Of course I want us to build confidence with the financial services industry… but what we can’t allow to happen is a return to the largesse in the past, where bankers thought they could behave inappropriately and crash our economy.

“And I think that’s an issue that we have to keep an eye on, and I hope the UK Labour Treasury will do that.”

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Reeves refuses to commit to green pledge

But for Labour right now, there is little appetite in making any bold moves on almost anything for fear of being torn down by opponents – look at the £28bn-a-year on green power – as Ms Reeves seeks to reassure wavering voters that Labour can be trusted on the economy.

Instead, the party will look for “radicalism” in reforms that don’t cost the taxpayer, and there’s no doubt that in this, Ms Rayner is leading the charge.

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