The Labour leader and Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves showed a united front – outlining the huge infrastructure investments still planned for the party’s green plan, despite scaling back the headline £28 billion figure
Keir Starmer has pledged half a million new “green jobs where you live” to be created by Labour ’s green plan.
It would mean more than 50,000 new jobs each for Yorkshire and the North West – including opportunities for plumbers, welders, electricians and manufacturing workers.
The Labour leader spoke to the Mirror days after Rishi Sunak made an anti-trans joke at PMQs, after being told the mother of murdered trans teen Brianna Ghey was visiting Parliament at the time. He accused Mr Sunak of lacking the “backbone or courage or even basic understanding of how you should act as a Prime Minister.”
And he added: “I think the role of Prime Minister is to make sure that every single citizen, whatever their identity, their race, their background, their views, should feel safe and respected in their own country. And he broke that rule.”
The green jobs pledge comes after Labour finally settled a row over funding for green projects if they win the next election – reducing the original £28 billion a year ambition to a more modest £15 billion.
“This is a series of plans specifically developed to make sure we have what everybody wants: a secure, well paid, skilled job near where they live,” the Labour leader said. “So you don’t have to get out to get on. You don’t have to be constantly moving.”
Speaking alongside Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, as a united front to dispel claims of friction at the top of the party, Mr Starmer said: “When we grow our economy, which we desperately need to do, it has to be growth in every part of the country, not just in some parts.” Ms Reeves added: “The Tories have spoken about levelling up these last few years, but we’ve seen precious little of it. And this is about good jobs, paying decent wages that you can support a family on in every region and nation of the United Kingdom. And that’s why it’s so exciting.”
Ms Reeves blamed the scaling back of elements of the programme on the Tories’ management of the economy – claiming Chancellor Jeremy Hunt planned to “max out” the country’s credit card in order to block Labour’s plans if they win. We can’t pretend that the damage hasn’t been done…we want to be honest and think about your readers,” she said. “So many of them have had to make changes in their lives, you know, their mortgage payments have gone up, all their rents have gone up, their energy bills have gone up massively. And they’ve had to make a savings elsewhere and cut back on some things. And the truth is, that’s the same for governments. And we’re going to have to cut back on some things we really wanted to do.”
Labour’s plan will see the government invest in industries that help boost Britain’s energy security.
And would target jobs at communities with historic and current ties to fossil fuel production – helping them transition to green jobs.
Mr Starmer said: “Our British Jobs Bonus is specifically designed to ensure that in the areas where there will be transition, the jobs and supply chains are here in Britain and not in other countries.”
As well as jobs for plumbers, electricians and welders, the boost would include apprenticeships to help workers upskill or transition from fossil fuel industries to skilled green jobs.
Some 50,000 jobs each would be based in Yorkshire and the North West, with the North East, East Midlands and West Midlands seeing a boost of 30,000 jobs each.
But while some elements – such as the plan to upgrade boilers and home insulation for millions of homes – have had to be slowed or scaled back, plans to switch Britain to clean energy by 2030 remain. And there’s an £8 billion investment to set up GB Energy – a publicly owned energy company – within five years of taking office.
But many – including some Labour backbenchers – questioned the timing. Why announce the cash would be scaled back now, with the Tories on the back foot and the EU issuing a dire warning about global temperatures rising on the same day? Mr Starmer said he’d ordered the party to gear up for a May 2nd election – even as Mr Sunak refuses to confirm a date – and had set a deadline of Thursday to decide what was in and out of the manifesto.
“We’ve had to go through that process. And the process took some time,” he said. “Rachel and I wanted to be assured that all the commitments that were made – GB Energy, the National Wealth Fund, gigafactories, ports, green steel, offshore floating wind, you name it – we wanted to make sure that those were the right commitments to deliver. That they were fully funded in the way they needed to be. And they’d be effective. And we went through that exercise. And that’s the proper way to come to a final decision.”
Mr Starmer joked: “And if we waited to make an announcement every time the government was on the back foot, we’d never get anything out.”
Days on, he was visibly still angry about Mr Sunak’s anti-trans jibe – and met with mum Esther Ghey after PMQs on Wednesday. “I was shocked…I just instantly thought of the impact on Esther, and the lack of respect was incredible in my view,” he said. “This is a mother whose daughter was murdered. And in the sentencing remarks amongst the motives, was transphobia. Obviously, it wasn’t the only motive. But the human impact of that sort of behaviour is huge.”
He didn’t commit to a ban on smartphones or social media for kids, saying Labour’s focus would be on dealing with online platforms that allow people to post harmful content. But Mr Starmer renewed his commitment to improving mental health services for young people, including mental health support in all schools from primary up.
And Labour’s “young futures programme” – nicknamed ‘Surestart for teenagers’ – aims to give support to youngsters likely to be involved in knife crime to keep them on the right road.
Mr Starmer also said he met with family members of the victims of the Nottingham knife attack.
“With two children of my own, I genuinely have to say, I don’t know how I would react if one of them was murdered,” he said. “I don’t know whether I’d have the courage that these families have, to campaign for change for other families. It is one of those experiences meeting parents – and Esther’s in the same category. It is humbling. It is incredibly defining of what it is to be human.
“And I said to them, I can’t imagine what you’ve been through… And I was moved. I was incredibly moved.”