Early evening summary

  • An attempt by Labour activists to pass a motion committing the party to backing proportional representation for Westminster elections has been defeated. (See 6.43pm.) As my colleague Peter Walker reports, CLPs were about 80% in favour. But it failed because the unions were 95% against.

Formal results show unions sank PR for Labour. Constituency parties backed it by almost 80% to 20% but “affiliates” were 95% against, so it lost. pic.twitter.com/KcN7awrL0z

— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) September 27, 2021
  • The delegates did vote for a motion condemning the new Aukus pact as a “dangerous move that will undermine world peace” - even though Starmer told MPs that Labour supported the pact. (See 3.56pm.)


Conference votes down motion saying Labour should commit to PR

A party source has said the motion saying Labour should commit to PR has been defeated. Many activists were in favour but it seems it did not have the support of big unions.


Keir Starmer has responded to Andy McDonald’s resignation, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg reports.

Official Starmer -‘I want to thank Andy for his service in the Shadow Cabinet. Labour’s comprehensive New Deal for Working People shows the scale of our ambition and where our priorities lie. My focus and that of the whole party is on winning the next general election’

— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) September 27, 2021


This is from Sky’s Sam Coates.

My understanding is that there are no tears being shed in Keir Starmer’s office and there’s no sense of loss at Andy McDonald’s resignation

They gained Louise Ellman as a member and lost Andy McDonald

They argue that’s what change looks like

— Sam Coates Sky (@SamCoatesSky) September 27, 2021

Military training for foreign governments would be subject to new human rights tests under Labour, says Thornberry

Emily Thornberry, the shadow international trade secretary, has told a fringe meeting that Labour would apply the same controls to the provision of military and police training to foreign governments as already apply to the export of arms to foreign regimes.

Addressing the New Statesman meeting on human rights and trade, she said that the British armed forces and police were rightly regarded as among the “most skilled and professional in the world” and that when they provided training to counterparts abroad it was good for relations with Britain’s partners. She went on:

But there is an inescapable problem. If all countries wish to learn from ours, we will inevitably face situations where some of the training being provided in Britain is used to abuse human rights overseas, ranging from the brutal repression of peaceful protesters to the indiscriminate targeting of civilians in war.

She said Labour would make it unlawful for ministers to authorise training like this “where there is a serious risk it will be used by the recipient forces to violate international law, or engage in acts of internal repression, or external aggression”.

She went on:

Like arms exports, the decisions made by ministers on training will be published on a quarterly basis, and like arms exports, those decisions will be subject to scrutiny by parliament and challenge in the courts.

And most importantly, when we conduct the root-and-branch reform of our arms export regime which I promised here in Brighton in 2017, whatever changes we make to that system will apply equally to our provision of training as well.


Charlie Falconer, the shadow attorney general and a leading Blairite, has told Sky News Andy McDonald’s resignation was intended to overshadow the moderate message in Rachel Reeves’ speech.

(Perhaps it was, but arguably you could say that it reinforces some of what Reeves was saying too, because it shows that Keir Starmer would rather lose a shadow cabinet minister than give in to a union demand on the minimum wage.)

Lord Falconer: Andy McDonald’s departure deliberately intended to overshadow the moderate message of Rachel Reeves

— Sam Coates Sky (@SamCoatesSky) September 27, 2021


These are from Sky’s Sam Coates, who has interviewed Andy McDonald.

McDonald says it was the most difficult decision of his life

He won’t call Keir Starmer a liar but suggests the party has been acting in bad faith

— Sam Coates Sky (@SamCoatesSky) September 27, 2021

Andy McDonald told me he quit without speaking to Keir Starmer

— Sam Coates Sky (@SamCoatesSky) September 27, 2021

Back in the conference, the motion on PR (see 1.53pm) has gone to a card vote because the result was not clear on a show of hands.

The conference is now winding up for the day. The result of the card vote should be available later this evening.


McDonald says Labour 'more divided than ever' under Starmer

Here are extracts from Andy McDonald’s resignation letter.

  • McDonald says Keir Starmer has made his position as shadow secretary of state for employment rights “untenable” because Starmer told him to oppose raising the minimum wage to £15 an hour. He says:

Yesterday, your office instructed me to go into a meeting to argue against a national minimum wage of £15 an hour and against statutory sick pay at the living wage. This is something I could not do.

Labour is committed to raising the national minimum wage to £10 an hour. Currently the national living wage for people age 23 and over is £8.91.

  • McDonald argues that this shows the party does not appreciate the value of low-paid workers. He says:

We live in a time when the people of this country have a renewed awareness of how important the work done by millions of low-paid workers truly is. To have the Labour party, the party of working people, fail to realise that is a bitter blow.

  • He claims this is just one of many examples of Starmer failing to stick to the socialist principles that he proclaimed when he was running for leader. And McDonald says the party is “more divided than ever”. He says:

I joined your frontbench team on the basis of the pledges that you made in the leadership campaign to bring about unity within the party and maintain our commitment to socialist policies.

After 18 months of your leadership, our movement is more divided than ever and the pledges that you made to the membership are not being honoured. This is just the latest of many.

The line about Starmer’s commitment to socialist policies refers principally to the 10 pledges he issued during the leadership contest.

McDonald is on the left of Labour, but he is not a hardline Corbynite, and in 2015 he backed Andy Burnham for leader. But he may have felt increasingly isolated in Starmer’s team. He was reportedly the only member of the shadow cabinet to argue against Starmer’s plan to change the leadership election rules when they were announced last week.

Andy McDonald speaking at the Labour conference in 2016.
Andy McDonald speaking at the Labour conference in 2016. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA


Andy McDonald resigns from shadow cabinet after Starmer opposes £15ph minimum wage

Andy McDonald has resigned from his post as shadow secretary of state for employment rights in the shadow cabinet. He says he left because he was ordered to argue against lifting the national minimum wage to £15 an hour (a key GMB demand).

Here is his resignation letter.

Andy McDonald quits shadow cabibet pic.twitter.com/6vcEORphGG

— Sam Coates Sky (@SamCoatesSky) September 27, 2021

Starmer should 'assess his own future' if his speech does not lift Labour in polls, says McDonnell

John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, has said Keir Starmer should “assess his own future” if his conference speech does not lift Labour in the polls. That is tentative code for resign.

Speaking on Times Radio, McDonnell said:

I think if Keir gets the speech right on Wednesday, he can lift everyone’s spirits and go further. If he doesn’t, and we’re not lifting in the polls, Keir is a sensible enough person to actually sit down and assess his own future.

Asked what “assess his own future” meant, McDonnell replied:

I think he’ll look at what he contribution he can make in the future.


Andy Burnham tells the conference he thinks Labour still has a “bit of a blind spot” in terms of the importance of elected mayors. Originally Burnham was unhappy about not being given a speaking slot at the conference. He acknowledges that he is here now, as part of a panel, but he says he hopes next year they will get a bigger slot.


In his own speech to the conference Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, told delegates that they needed to unite to win. He said:

If we want to build the fairer, more equal, greener future Britain deserves, we know that winning the next general election is the real prize, and to get there we must unite.

We must stick together.

We must focus all our energy on taking the fight to the Tories and work towards a Labour government, with Keir Starmer in Downing Street. Because Labour, in power, delivers real change.

Sadiq Khan
Sadiq Khan Photograph: Anthony Harvey/REX/Shutterstock

At the conference in Brighton Keir Starmer turned up earlier in the press room for an informal chat with journalists. Irritatingly, his aides brought him here on condition that it was a background chat, and what he said was not for reporting.

Journalists prefer to speak to politicians on the record, but if they set these terms, so be it. But I don’t think I’m giving anything away if I say that what gets said on these occasions is normally not that far off what gets said in public.

Keir Starmer in the press room at the Labour conference.
Keir Starmer in the press room at the Labour conference. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA


At the Labour conference Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, Tracy Brabin, mayor of West Yorkshire, and Dan Jarvis, mayor of South Yorkshire, are now taking part in a panel discussion. Burnham says he and his fellow Labour mayor are “giving the north of England a louder political voice than it’s ever had before”.

He says his priority is to bring bus fares in Manchester down to the level they are in London. And he repeats his promise to offer the Tories a levelling up plan for Greater Manchester when they come to the city for their conference. (See 3.42pm.)

He also says the mayors are increasing Labour’s chances of winning the election, because they are showing what the party can do when it is in power.


The result of the Aukus vote (see 3.56pm) was announced not long after John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, told the conference that under Labour Britain would “no longer be half-hearted about essential alliances”.

He said:

Britain will be democracy’s most reliable ally. Britain will no longer be half-hearted about essential alliances and treaties, in the UN, Nato, Five Eyes, international court of justice. Britain will forge a flexible geometry of new alliances where needed for our national security and international stability.

But Healey did make it clear that Europe and the North Atlantic, rather than the Indo-Pacific, would be Labour’s priority. He said:

We will give the highest priority to security in Europe, North Atlantic and Arctic, pursuing new defence cooperation with European Nato neighbours.

John Healey.
John Healey. Photograph: Anthony Harvey/Rex/Shutterstock


Keir Starmer has welcomed Dame Louise Ellman’s return to Labour. (See 3.36pm.) In a statement he said:

Louise Ellman rejoining our party is a poignant moment.

Her courage and dignity in standing up against appalling abuse is testament to her Labour values.

I am heartened to know that her faith in our party has been restored enough for her to return to her political home.

The Labour party is now relentlessly focused on showing that our credible and ambitious policy programme can change people’s lives.

I look forward to Louise’s contributions.

Keir Starmer on the conference platform today.
Keir Starmer on the conference platform today. Photograph: Anthony Harvey/Rex/Shutterstock


Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, told the conference earlier that Boris Johnson’s government is “incompetent to its core”. He said:

Everything that Labour has achieved in Wales, across England and Scotland has been achieved in the teeth of one of the most awful UK governments we have ever seen.

Incompetent to its core, automatically hostile to anyone who does not share its viscerally reactionary instincts, at home or abroad.

Just imagine what we could do if we had a UK Labour government committed to renewing and rebuilding the United Kingdom so that it genuinely works for everyone, a new relationship built around mutual respect, proper participation, one that recognises devolution is the UK’s greatest strength, not its greatest mistake.

He also called for a new approach to devolution.

Just imagine what we could do if we had a UK Labour government committed to renewing and rebuilding the United Kingdom so that it genuinely works for everyone.

A new relationship built around mutual respect, proper participation, one that recognises devolution is the UK’s greatest strength, not its greatest mistake, that the radical redirection of power to local places is the way we keep the United Kingdom together, together by consent.

A new union that only Labour can offer and a country built again on Labour values to which people in all parts of the United Kingdom would want to belong, would choose to belong.

Mark Drakeford at the Labour conference.
Mark Drakeford at the Labour conference. Photograph: Michael Mayhew/Sportsphoto/Allstar


Labour delegates vote to declare Aukus deal 'dangerous' threat to world peace - even though Starmer welcomed it

Following a card vote, the conference has passed a motion debated this morning criticising the new Australia/UK/US (Aukus) military alliance. The emergency motion, that described Aukus as a “dangerous move that will undermine world peace”, was passed by 70.35% to 29.65%.

This is an embarrassment for Keir Starmer, who told MPs that Labour welcomed the Aukus announcement when Boris Johnson made a statement about it in the Commons earlier this month.

The wording of the anti-Aukus motion echoes criticisms of the pact made by Jeremy Corbyn, the former leader.

#Aukus is starting a new nuclear arms race and cold war.

We must keep speaking out against it. pic.twitter.com/VfEcCnWJ5R

— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) September 27, 2021


Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, has said Angela Rayner should not be calling Tories “scum” because Labour should be trying to bring people together. Speaking on Radio 4’s World at One, he said:

I wouldn’t have used the words that she has used, but I think we have got to recognise that we have got a divisive government that wants to pit Brit versus Brit, or Scot versus Scot or English person versus English person.

I don’t think the Labour party should have any truck for that and the challenge I make to my colleagues is don’t think that by creating our own version of an us versus them, that pits half the country against the other half of the country, is the route to electoral success for the Labour party.

It’s the wrong thing to do and it also won’t win us an election, we’ve got to be more hopeful than that and talk about an all of us that brings our country together, pulls us together and takes on the big challenges of the future.


At a fringe meeting earlier Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said he would present ministers with a proposed “levelling-up” deal for his city region when the Conservatives visit Manchester for their conference next week. He said:

I have taken the decision to bring buses back under public control. That is the precursor to build a London-style public transport system.

When the government comes to Manchester next week I will put on the table a constructive proposal - a levelling-up deal - that has a London-style public transport system at its heart.

If we had that same level of fairness, I think it would change a huge number of lives in our city region.

Louise Ellman says she's rejoining Labour because Jews can trust Starmer

The former MP Dame Louise Ellman has announced that she has rejoined Labour. She left the party in October 2019 because she was angry about Jeremy Corbyn’s record on antisemitism, and she says today that she is returning because of Keir Starmer’s willingness to address the problem and because of the party rule changes passed yesterday implementing changes to Labour’s disciplinary processes demanded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in its report into this issue.

Starmer is someone Britain’s Jews can trust, she says.

But she says there is “considerably more work to be done” to repair Labour’s relations with the Jewish community, and she says the motion on Israel passed this morning (see 1.24pm) was “disgraceful”. It shows there are “still too many in the party who are more obsessed with demonising Israel than reaching a solution to this tragic conflict”, she says.

Today I have rejoined @UKLabour, returning to my political home. pic.twitter.com/fHS6kZlwDI

— Louise Ellman (@LouiseEllman) September 27, 2021
Louise Ellman
Louise Ellman. Photograph: Sean Smith/The Guardian


In the conference delegates are now debating the PR motion. The first few constituency Labour party speakers were strongly in favour, but Margaret Clarke from the GMB union has just spoken against the proposal. She said it would be an unnecessary distraction and she claimed the idea was unpopular with voters, having been rejected in the referendum in 2011.

(The referendum was on the alternative vote, which is technically not PR, although that campaign did illustrate how effective arguments about the cost of electoral reform could be when deployed by defenders of first past the post.)


Opening the debate on local government, Steve Reed, the shadow communities secretary, said Labour would “power up Britain with the most radical programme of devolution our country has ever seen”.

He gave few details of what this might mean in practice, but he did stress the way some Labour councils have given people more say over services. He said that when he was leader of Lambeth council he “gave children in care and their carers control over their own services – and they transformed them into the best in the country”. And he went on:

Put simply: people power works.

That’s how Camden council is transforming lives for struggling families by letting them shape their own support and how Wigan is improving public services and value for money by giving communities more control across the board.

We must learn from the best of Labour in power locally if we want the British people’s trust to govern nationally.


Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, has restated her determination not to apologise for calling Tories “scum” until Boris Johnson apologises for racist, homophobic and sexist things he has said in the past.

People seem to be far more concerned with my choice of language than the fact that @BorisJohnson has made comments that are racist, homophobic and sexist.

I'm very happy to sit down with Boris. If he withdraws his comments and apologises, I'll be very happy to apologise to him. pic.twitter.com/q1jmc91dGS

— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) September 27, 2021

Boris Johnson also called the children of single mothers 'ignorant and illegitimate'.

According to @BorisJohnson, when I was a young single mum I should have been pushed into ‘destitution on a Victorian scale’. So you can apologise for those comments as well Prime Minister. pic.twitter.com/RyXKxKP5hD

— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) September 27, 2021


Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, told a fringe meeting that Labour should take heart from the results of the German election, my colleague Dan Sabbagh reports.

Standing room only for Lisa Nandy fringe event, same number or more were turned away. Shadow for sec says lesson from German election is, of winning, "never believe it's not possible". pic.twitter.com/cJ1ctW5jAj

— Dan Sabbagh (@dansabbagh) September 27, 2021

In Germany the centre-left Social Democrats, led by Olaf Scholz, narrowly emerged as the largest party. In a good profile for the New Statesman recently, Jeremy Cliffe said that only a year ago Scholz looked like a lost cause. “So robotic and uncharismatic was his personal style that he had long been known as the Scholzomat,” said Cliffe. But 12 months on he was seen as his party’s greatest asset.

Cliffe’s article includes a quote that may appeal to Keir Starmer’s defenders. He says Scholz adopts the pragmatic approach to politics adopted by his mentor, Helmut Schmidt, “whose most memorable saying was: ‘Those who have visions should go to the optician’”.


And this is from the Green Alliance, an environmental thinktank, on Rachel Reeves’ £28bn a year climate investment pledge.

This is a big increase in ambition from @UKLabour that would go a long way in getting to #NetZero & restoring nature

This puts pressure on @RishiSunak to deliver a significant increase in green investment in the spending reviewhttps://t.co/lHUZkdCmE1

— Green Alliance (@GreenAllianceUK) September 27, 2021

This is from Tony Danker, director general of the CBI, who has welcomed Rachel Reeves’s speech.

A real step forward from ⁦@RachelReevesMP⁩ and Labour on the economy and business today. Seeking partnership, backing green investment and scrapping a business rate system that hinders growth. Still some tricky questions, but overall welcome https://t.co/igrjwgChJd

— Tony Danker (@tonydanker) September 27, 2021

The CBI has not always been so positive about the shadow chancellor’s speech at Labour conference. Four years ago, when John McDonnell was doing the job, the CBI said his plans would send investors “running for the hills”.

Delegates to vote on motion saying next Labour government should back PR

This afternoon the Labour conference will debate a composite motion saying the next party government should get rid of first past the post for Westminster elections and replace it with a form of proportional representation (PR).

Sir Keir Starmer is not seen as an enthusiastic supporter of PR, but during the Labour leadership contest he promised to consult members on electoral reform and the party’s national executive is adopting a neutral stance on this afternoon’s motion. The Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform says 80% of party activists, who have half the votes at conference, support their cause.

If the motion gets passed, Starmer will not be obliged to include PR in the next manifesto. But he will be under more pressure to do so, and campaigners will argue that they have got closer to making this a Labour priority.

Here is an extract from the motion.

With first past the post votes do not have equal value. General elections are decided by swing voters in fewer than 100 marginal constituencies. FPTP has created ‘electoral deserts’.

FPTP privileges ‘swing voters’ over neglected voters - including younger, black and minority ethnic communities. It creates widespread disenfranchisement, disillusion, and disengagement in politics, throwing our democracy into crisis. It exacerbates regional, class, gender, wealth and racial inequalities in the House of Commons, in our political culture, and in national conversation. FPTP is unfit for purpose, stacked against the interests of less affluent people and communities, and urgently in need of reform.

A voting system in which every vote counts equally is needed to address the worrying levels of alienation, division and mistrust in British politics. Labour in government played a leading role in introducing forms of PR to the UK’s devolved Government. There are systems of PR that retain a strong constituency link between MPs and their electorates, while ensuring that all votes count equally and seats match votes.

The full text of the motion is here.


Ipsos Mori has released some polling that suggests the Conservative lead over Labour has shrunk from 11 points in August to just 3 points. These are from Keiran Pedley, who works for the company.

NEW @IpsosMORI / Evening Standard. Conservative lead down to 3 points... (changes from August)

­Conservatives: 39% (-2)
­Labour: 36% (+6)
­Liberal Democrats: 9% (-4)
­Greens: 6% (-2)

1,008 Britons interviewed by telephone Sep 17-23

More below...

— Keiran Pedley (@keiranpedley) September 27, 2021

The narrowing poll lead for the Conservatives is striking but doubts about Labour persist.

- Just one in four think Labour are ready to form the next govt.

- Looking back since 2010, there is a consistent pattern here. Numbers vary between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 agreeing. pic.twitter.com/S2bfp5yc4R

— Keiran Pedley (@keiranpedley) September 27, 2021

Also, a deep-dive on the brand shows other challenges.

- Labour seen as less divided or extreme than under Corbyn
- But just 1 in 4 think 'fit to govern' and 1 in 5 think the party has a good team of leaders pic.twitter.com/fZWczwrToU

— Keiran Pedley (@keiranpedley) September 27, 2021

Meanwhile, not much movement in Starmer's figures

- 25% satisfied with the job he's doing
- 50% dissatisfied pic.twitter.com/JHU4wlWCyA

— Keiran Pedley (@keiranpedley) September 27, 2021

And yet, there are doubts about the Conservatives too

When asked whether the current Conservative govt 'deserves to be re-elected' 32% agree it does but 46% disagree pic.twitter.com/hJxnD4Bmlb

— Keiran Pedley (@keiranpedley) September 27, 2021

And when asked 'who would make the most capable PM' Starmer and Johnson are level on 38%.

This is primarily caused by those saying Johnson moving to don't know but it is the first time in a very long time a Conservative has not been ahead. pic.twitter.com/3lXcuuOXFp

— Keiran Pedley (@keiranpedley) September 27, 2021

What do we learn?

- Labour challenges re: Labour brand and Starmer remain

- But doubts creeping in about govt and a tough winter could see Labour poll leads - not predictive of any future GE but still an important moment politically, especially for those saying 'early election'

— Keiran Pedley (@keiranpedley) September 27, 2021


At the end of the morning session of conference, delegates passed by a show of hands a composite on Israel and Palestine, despite Steve McCabe MP, the chair of Labour Friends of Israel, urging them not to on the grounds that the motion was “too shouty, too angry, too one-sided and not at all focused on the search for peace”.

McCabe claimed the composite was “completely hostile to the people of Israel” and ignored the actions of the new coalition government in Israel. “If Labour had adopted this approach in Northern Ireland, we would never have got to the Good Friday agreement,” he claimed.

Here is an extract from the motion:

Conference condemns the ongoing Nakba in Palestine, Israel’s militarised violence attacking the Al Aqsa mosque, the forced displacements from Sheikh Jarrah and the deadly assault on Gaza.

Together with the de facto annexation of Palestinian land by accelerated settlement building and statements of Israel’s intention to proceed with annexation, it is ever clearer that Israel is intent on eliminating any prospects of Palestinian self-determination.

Conference notes the TUC 2020 Congress motion describing such settlement building and annexation as ‘another significant step’ towards the UN crime of apartheid, and calling on the European and international trade union movement to join the international campaign to stop annexation and end apartheid ...

Conference resolves to support “effective measures” including sanctions, as called for by Palestinian civil society, against actions by the Israeli government that are illegal according to international law; in particular to ensure that Israel stops the building of settlements, reverses any annexation, ends the occupation of the West Bank, the blockade of Gaza, brings down the wall and respects the right of Palestinian people, as enshrined in international law, to return to their homes.

Conference resolves that the Labour party must stand on the right side of history and abide by these resolutions in its policy, communications and political strategy.


Labour would replace universal credit with system with lower taper rate, says Reynolds

In his speech to the conference earlier Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow work and pensions secretary, confirmed that Labour would replace universal credit with a “better system”. He did not say much about what the replacement might be like, but he said the focus would be on reducing the taper rate (the rate at which people lose benefit for every extra £1 they earn). He said:

For many people, work simply doesn’t pay enough. It won’t take them two hours to make up the £20 cut – it will take five times that. That’s because up to 75% of the extra money they earn is taken away from them through the taper rate, even before travel costs or childcare come into it. Britons on the lowest incomes effectively pay a higher marginal rate of tax than their prime minister because of that taper rate. It’s perverse. So the next Labour government will change that and make sure people keep more of the money they earn. And it’s just part of our plan. Higher wages, increased sick pay, the right to join a union, flexible working for all, protection from unfair dismissal, a real safety net, and real security and prosperity.

Jonathan Reynolds speaking at the conference.
Jonathan Reynolds speaking at the conference. Photograph: Michael Mayhew/Sportsphoto/Allstar


Rachel Reeves after her conference speech.
Rachel Reeves after her conference speech. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

Here is my colleague Jessica Elgot’s story on the £28bn per year climate investment pledge.

Here is more from Labour on what it is describing as its climate investment pledge.

The party are pledging an additional £28bn of green capital investment per year until 2030, saying that without investing now, the costs could spiral out of control.

The OBR Fiscal Risks Report (2021) argues that delay by even a decade doubles the cost of transition, and inaction could see debt spiral to 289% of GDP.

Reeves gets an enthusiastic standing ovation at the end of her speech – and a hug from Keir Starmer.


Labour would spend £28bn a year on capital investment for green transition, says Reeves

Reeves says as chancellor she would invest in green jobs.

Value for money means knowing when and where not to spend.

But it also means knowing when and where to invest – to prevent far greater costs further down the line.

There is no better example of this than in the case of climate breakdown.

As chancellor I will not shirk our responsibility to future generations and to workers and businesses in Britain.

No dither, no delay. Labour will meet the challenge head on and seize the opportunities of the green transition.

We will provide certainty and show leadership in this decisive decade.

Let me tell you today what I would do as your chancellor.

I will invest in this country’s green transition: gigafactories to build batteries for electric vehicles, thriving hydrogen industry, offshore wind with turbines made in Britain, more green places and safe cycle paths, planting trees and building flood defences, keeping homes warm and getting energy bills down, good new jobs in communities throughout Britain.

In other words, protecting and strengthening our everyday economy. And to make this a reality.

She says she would spend £28bn a year on capital investment for the green transition.


Labour would create Office for Value for Money, with 'meaningful powers', says Reeves

Reeves says Labour would create a new Office for Value for Money to check how public money is spent. And it will have “meaningful powers”, she says.

She says no government should be allowed to mark its own homework.

Reeves says Labour would seek to recover money wasted on failed PPE contracts

Reeves cites examples of personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts going to people with links to the Tories.

And she says where those contacts have not delivered, “we want our money back”.

Labour will set up a team to review these contractors. Where suppliers have not delivered, the government will seek to get its money back, she says.

UPDATE: Reeves said:

So I say today: To those who have secured Covid contracts and have not delivered. I give you notice.

We expect that money back.

We will set up a team to go through every line of every failed contract where value was not delivered, and clawback every penny of taxpayers’ money we possibly can.

Because that money belongs in our police. It belongs in our schools and it belongs in our NHS.


Reeves promises 'biggest wave of insourcing of public services in generation'

Reeves says there will be no return to austerity under Labour.

But Labour will not waste money either, she says. She promises “the biggest wave of insourcing of public services in a generation”.

Reeves is now summarising her plan to get rid of business rates. (See 10.30am.)

She says these plans are intended to help ensure that every community has a thriving high street.

She says the system that replaces business rates will incentivise investment and reward firms that move into empty premises. She says local councils will not lose out.

Reeves says Labour would be “unapologetically pro work and pro business”.

Turning to tax, she says the current system is unfair. She would not balance the books on the backs of the poor, she says.

She says she would scrap a tax relief for private equity bosses.

And she says Labour would scrap charitable status for private schools, and put the money saved into state schools.


Reeves says the Tories waste money. She cites test and trace as an example. She says Labour-led Wales did much better, because it put local authorities in charge.

Reeves says Labour wants to buy, make and sell more in Britain.

And she says Labour would clear up the Tories’ “Brexit mess”.

Believe me when I say I am more than happy to take on the Tories when it comes to economic competence, because I know we can win.

From the FT’s Jim Pickard:

Rachel Reeves, shadow chancellor:

“The Tories have lost control.” pic.twitter.com/RMHPSuRGtd

— Jim Pickard (@PickardJE) September 27, 2021


Reeves says the Tories do not understand how the everyday economy works.

She says it was not outsourcing companies and managment consultancies who got us through the pandemic. It was care workers, delivery workers, cleaners, supermarket workers, NHS staff, teachers and other frontline workers.

She leads a warm round of applause for people in the conference in the front row who work in these jobs.

Reeves is now paying tribute to people who do essential jobs, people in the “everyday economy” who keep the shelves full and the shops open.

But now, under the Tories, the shelves are empty and there are queues at petrol stations. The Tories are incompetent. They have lost control, she says.

Rachel Reeves’s speech

Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, is deliving her conference speech now.

She says she spent most of her childhood under a Tory government. She says she learnt from the condition of her school what the Conservatives felt about public services.

After 1997 she saw what a difference a Labour government could do. She says it cut class sizes, cut waiting lists and lifted millions of children and pensioners out of poverty.

This receives a loud cheer.

(She does not mention the leader at the time, Tony Blair, who is still a very contentious figure here.)


Burnham says Michael Gove 'good news' for levelling up

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, has been at at least two fringe meetings this morning. As my colleague Peter Walker reports, he has been arguing for other English cities to get the sorts of powers than London has.

Burnham being quizzed about devolution, and makes familiar if v good point that you can't really talk about levelling up if no other English cities have the same level of control over their public transport as does London. He wants Labour to "get right behind" English devolution.

— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) September 27, 2021

Andy Burnham jokes that when the Conservative conference is in Manchester next week he'll aim to impress Michael Gove, the new communities secretary, by organising a one-off Hacienda night, promising it'll be even better than the nightlife in Aberdeen.

— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) September 27, 2021

Andy Burnham: “The north is getting organised. It’s not going to accept any more the treatment it's had for decades - more than that, it's been centuries – which has created a very unequal country. We are requiring change."

— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) September 27, 2021

As the Telegraph’s Tony Diver reports, Burnham has also been praising Michael Gove, the new cabinet minister for levelling up.

Surprise endorsement of the day:

Andy Burnham says Michael Gove is “good news” for levelling up.

“The thing about Michael Gove is at least he does things.

“You may disagree with me, but he acts as a minister. He creates an agenda, and he then implements it.” pic.twitter.com/XuvcORcnVk

— Tony Diver (@Tony_Diver) September 27, 2021

No calling the Tories scum here.

At another fringe event, Burnham adds: “When I left Westminster, I created a rule for myself: if the Government gets it right, and does the right thing by us, we will say so”

— Tony Diver (@Tony_Diver) September 27, 2021

In his conference speech John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, said Labour would spend an extra £35m on a fund to support the mental health of veterans and of Afghan personnel now in the UK.

Here is a good question from below the line.

Starmer says common ownership is not the same as nationalisation.

(from Sunday)

ANDREW or anyone else.

The line came from ATL in the discussion about Starmer rejecting his apparent pledge to nationalise the energy companies.

Was he being disingenuous or is there any difference between common ownership and nationalisation?

In his Andrew Marr interview yesterday, when it was put to him that in ruling out nationalising the big six energy companies he was breaking a leadership election pledge to support “common ownership” of energy, Sir Keir Starmer insisted that nationalisation and common ownership were not the same thing. But he would not elaborate, or explain what kind of “common ownership” for energy he would favour.

In fact, Labour has produced a very good policy document on just this topic. But it was published in 2017, when Jeremy Corbyn was leader. It is here (pdf). It is probably not a particularly useful guide to Starmer’s thinking on this topic, but it does set out alternatives to old-style nationalisation, particularly cooperative ownership and municipal ownership.

Here is an extract from the key chapter.

There exists a wide array of alternative models of ownership that could, as indeed they do in various other parts of the world, prove of benefit to our economy. This section will outline a number of these, starting at the micro level (cooperatives), before discussing municipal and local-led ownership, and finally at the most macro level (that of national ownership). For each the report will consider their merits, existing examples, and what is required to expand or create them in Britain.

Taking back 'red wall' not enough to win election, says Labour thinktank

Currently Labour has just 199 MPs. Last night the Fabian Society, the Labour thinktank, published a report (pdf) looking at the seats the party would need to win to form a government. It has looked at the 150 seats that the party came closest to winning in 2019, saying that to win a majority of one, the party would need 123 gains.

The main message from the report is that just focusing on the “red wall” seats, the traditional Labour constituencies that fell to the Tories in 2019, is not enough. It says most of the 150 seats are not formerly loyal Labour seats, and that they are a diverse group.

The 150 target seats, by category
The 150 target seats, by category Photograph: Fabian Society

It also says most of these target seats cover towns and villages, not cities. It says:

Ninety-five of the 125 constituencies are made up of towns (or sometimes villages), with many of these in the north, Midlands and Wales and usually not adjacent to core cities.

Luke Raikes, the Fabian Society’s research director and the report’s author, said:

This report shows not just the mountain that Labour has to climb, but the route it needs to take to succeed. Labour has an opportunity to recast its appeal to focus on towns in the country’s demographic ‘middle’. Reaching out to formerly loyal ‘red wall’ seats is necessary but not sufficient for Labour. The party needs to reconnect outside big cities in towns and villages of every shape and size.


Nandy proposes 'new foreign policy partnership with Europe'

Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, finished her speech to the Labour conference a few minutes ago. Here are the key points.

  • Nandy said Labour wanted “a new foreign policy partnership with Europe to address our shared challenges, from climate change to Russia”.
  • She said Labour was launching “a new taskforce on illicit finance with the aim of making the UK the most inhospitable place in the world for dirty money and ill-gotten gains”.
  • She said Labour would legislate to place a duty on companies to eliminate forced labour from their supply chains. “We will end cotton imports from Xinjiang,” she said.
  • She said Labour would end arms sales to Saudia Arabia.
  • She said Labour would remain “a proud, fiercely internationalist party” despite Brexit. She went on:

We face challenges unlike any we’ve faced before.

Engaging with a Chinese government essential to progress on climate change while standing firm in defence of human rights, freedom and security.

A Russian state that uses chemical weapons on the streets of the UK.

A world where drones, cyber-attacks and disinformation can be deployed without consequence against innocent people on the other side of the world.

The Tories say we can turn our backs.

Conference, they are wrong.

Building walls is easy. Building bridges – in the world, in the country and let’s be honest, with each other – that’s the hard part.

  • She said a Labour government would push at the UN human rights council for a global treaty to end violence against women and girls.
Lisa Nandy speaking at the conference this morning.
Lisa Nandy speaking at the conference this morning. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters


Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, going for a run this morning in Brighton, where the Labour conference is taking place.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, going for a run this morning in Brighton, where the Labour conference is taking place.
Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

The Labour pledge to scrap business rates has received a warm welcome from the Federation of Small Businesses, and the Conservatives seem wary of saying it is a bad idea. In a statement released overnight, Oliver Dowden, the Tory co-chairman, just focused on the measures the government is already taking to help businesses, without saying anything negative about the Labour plan.

But, in a briefing note, the Conservatives point out that Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the public spending thinktank, criticised the notion that getting rid of business rates would help the high street in an article earlier this year. Johnson said scrapping business rates would not help shops in the long term because rents would just go up. He said:

So why wouldn’t cutting business rates help all that much in the long run if your aim is to preserve high street shopping? Surely if you reduce the costs to me of running my shop, I am more likely to stay in business. There’s the rub. While cutting business rates might reduce my costs in the short run, it won’t make much difference in the long run. I’m not only paying a business rates bill; I’m also paying rent to the owner of the shop and of the land on which it sits. Because there is only a limited amount of land for shops, especially in places such as central London where rents and business rates are highest, cutting business rates will largely simply lead to higher rents.

However, in the same article, Johnson did say that it would be better to base business rates on the value of land than on the rental value of property.

Labour to review tax breaks worth £170bn to see if they're still justified, Reeves says

There are two announcements in Rachel Reeves’ speech that were briefed overnight by Labour. She is announcing a plan to scrap business rates, funded temporarily by what will effectively be a £2.1bn windfall tax on tech firms, although Labour has not said what the ultimate replacement for business rates will be.

But she is also announcing a review of all government tax reliefs, worth £170bn in total. Reeves says:

We will look at every single tax break. If it doesn’t deliver for the taxpayer or for the economy then we will scrap it.

Labour will tax fairly, spend wisely, and get our economy firing on all cylinders.

In a briefing note released to journalists, Labour explained why it is doing this. Here is an extract.

The government spends over £170bn a year on tax reliefs – more than it does on the health service. While some help create jobs or promote important social policies, others are wasteful and inefficient.

There are some tax reliefs we would keep – such as the VAT exemption on food. There are other reliefs Labour would scrap – such as the tax breaks that private schools benefit from through their charitable status.

We would review the others to make sure public money is being well spent. The government does not even know how much all their reliefs cost. Our review will make sure money is not being wasted on tax reliefs that have little or no benefit.

In its most recent figures, HMRC reports there are over 1,000 tax reliefs in the UK. Of those that have been costed, the exchequer loses over £174bn per year. These are defined as those that are intended to help or encourage particular types of taxpayers, activities, or products for economic or social objectives.

HMRC has published cost details of 186 non-structural reliefs, but the remaining 153 are uncosted. That means they do not know the cost of the majority of tax reliefs that exist.

The public accounts committee looked at the system of tax reliefs in 2020 and found “tax reliefs have an enormous impact on tax revenue but it is far from clear whether they deliver the economic and social objectives many are supposed to support.”

The note also says that, when it considers which reliefs to keep and which to scrap, Labour would consider issues like whether they help create jobs, whether they reduce the cost of living and inequality and whether they improve the efficiency of the tax system.


Reeves says raising income tax 'not on our agenda'

Here are the main lines from Rachel Reeves’ various interviews this morning. I’ve taken the quotes from PA Media.

  • Reeves, the shadow chancellor, said the government was to blame for the current fuel shortages at petrol stations. She said:

Since last year I have been meeting and talking with the Road Haulage Association and hauliers about some of the problems coming down the line. The government ignored those problems, which is why we are now facing the situation where people go to the supermarkets and see shortages of goods on the shelves, and why they are queuing up at petrol stations and not being able to fill up their tank. That is not acceptable, this is an out-of-touch and complacent government.

  • She said most people “couldn’t care less” whether HGV drivers are British or foreign. The goverment has said it will allow an extra 5,000 visas for foreign drivers, but yesterday Keir Starmer said up to 100,000 foreign drivers may be needed.
  • She said Labour would take a “pragmatic” approach to nationalising services like energy. She said:

What matters is that essential services like gas and electricity are delivering for consumers, and we would look at that in the round. But I agree with Keir Starmer, this is not the moment to be looking at nationalising companies, we need to be focusing on the day-to-day bread-and-butter issues that are affecting people’s lives.

I have always believed that we should take a pragmatic approach, that we should look at what works for taxpayers and our economy.

Where that means common ownership – for example, some of the rail services have come into public ownership – that is the right thing to do.

But I would always take a pragmatic approach: what is good value for taxpayers and what is good for our economy?

  • She said raising income tax was not on Labour’s agenda. She said:

Keir and I are both very clear, we have no plans to increase income tax and neither of us want to increase income tax, it is not on our agenda.

The only people who are increasing taxes for working people are the Tories with their jobs tax that comes in next year that hits ordinary working families and struggling businesses.

  • She said Labour wanted “those with the broadest shoulders” (ie, the wealthy) to pay more in tax.
  • She said she would not have called the Tories scum, although she could understand why Angela Rayner felt angry about them.
  • She said she objected to the debate about trans issues being reduced to a question about whether only women have a cervix. Asked this, she told LBC:

I just think that this issue has just become so divisive and toxic, and it pits people against each other – both groups who have faced discrimination in society – women and trans women. I just find this debate incredibly unhelpful and unproductive, to be totally honest.

Pressed on whether it was transphobic to say only women have a cervix, Reeves replied: “I don’t even know how to start answering these questions.” When asked the question again, she replied: “I wouldn’t say that. If somebody identifies as a woman or a man, they should be able to do so whatever their body parts are.”

This is from LBC’s Matthew Thompson.

“Is it transphobic to say that only women have a cervix?” A yes or no question you might think.

That 124 word answer from Rachel Reeves in full:@LBC pic.twitter.com/jNJtic0CLR

— Matthew Thompson (@mattuthompson) September 27, 2021
Rachel Reeves giving an interview this morning.
Rachel Reeves giving an interview this morning. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA


This morning the Today programme also broadcast an interview with Jeremy Corbyn recorded yesterday. Asked if he agreed with John McDonnell when he said the current Labour leader was acting like a Blairite tribute band, Corbyn made it clear he did. He replied:

Well, John has a way with words, he really does. I admire him. And I love the way he described the essay written by our leader as the Sermon on the Mount written by a focus group.

And asked if Angela Rayner was right to describe the Tories as scum, he replied:

She has a way with words and she’s right to be really strong in opposing what this government has done. I am alarmed at the levels of poverty and inequality in our society, and I’m horrified at the way in which racist attitudes are promoted against refugees and asylum seekers. History is not going to judge well in 50 years’, 100 years’ time, those that turned desperate refugees away.

The voting figures published by Labour show that Sir Keir Starmer only won the vote on the party leadership election rule changes with union backing. In some respects that is a reversion to Labour’s past, when the leadership regularly used to rely on rightwing unions to outvote leftwing activists, although that is not a description of how the party is generally operating at the moment.

In the card vote on this rule change, the constituency Labour parties (CLPs) were 52.86% against and 47.14% in favour. But the affiliates (mostly the unions) were 60.2% in favour, and 39.8% against.

The EHRC-related rule changes were passed by 73.64% to 26.36%. There were significant majorities in favour amongst both the CLPs and the affiliates, but the CLPs were less supportive. Only 17.47% of affiliates opposed the changes,, but 35.26% of the CLPs did.

Mandelson says leadership election rule change will keep out another Corbyn

Good morning. Sir Keir Starmer won the vote last night on the internal Labour reforms that will require leadership candidates to have the backing of 20% of MPs, not 10%, stop registered supporters voting in leadership elections and make it harder for activists to trigger a reselection ballot in their local Labour MP. The changes were passed by 53.67% to 46.33%, which was closer than some expected, but it does go some way to compensating for Starmer’s failure to get the unions to back his plan to change the leadership election system more fundamentally (he wanted to return to the electoral college) and his allies are treating this as a significant victory.

In an interview for the Today programme this morning, Lord Mandelson, one of the main architects of New Labour and a Starmer supporter, was much more explict about what this might mean than Starmer himself, and his shadow ministers, have been. He said this was all about locking out another leader like Jeremy Corbyn. He said:

Jeremy Corbyn built on the rules that Ed Miliband introduced, which allowed hundreds of thousands of people to apply to vote for our future leader without actually caring about the Labour party, knowing about the Labour party and in many cases not even becoming a member of the Labour party.

That avalanche of people who were allowed in the Labour party to back one far-left candidates who they wanted to see elected leader will now no longer be allowed to happen ...

What these rule changes mean, and this is perhaps absolutely fundamental for people out in the country, when they’re asked to vote for Keir Starmer as their next prime minister, they can know with almost complete certainty that they’re not going to wake up one day and find Jeremy Corbyn there instead.

Today the focus at the conference will be on Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, who will use her speech to announce plans to scrap business rates. Here is my colleague Jessica Elgot’s preview story.

Reeves has been doing a morning interview round, and I will post the highlights soon.

Here is the agenda for the day.

10.15am: Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, speaks to conference.

10.15am: Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, opens the international debate. At 11am John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, will wind it up.

11.15am: Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow work and pensions secretary, opens a debate on the economy.

12pm: Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, delivers her keynote speech.

2.15pm: Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, speaks to the conference.

2.45pm: Steve Reed, the shadow communities secretary, opens a local government debate. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, speaks at 2.50pm, Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle city council and head of the Labour group on the Local Government Association, speaks at 3.50pm and Joanne Anderson, the mayor of Liverpool, speaks at 4.40pm.

4.45pm: Louise Haigh, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary, delivers a speech.

4.50pm: Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, Tracy Brabin, mayor of West Yorkshire, and Dan Jarvis, mayor of South Yorkshire, take part in a panel discussion.

5.10pm: Anas Sarwar, the leader of the Scottish Labour party, delivers the final speech of the day.

I expect to be focusing just on Labour today. For the latest in the fuel shortage crisis, do read my colleague Graeme Wearden’s business live blog.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com



Andrew Sparrow

The GuardianTramp

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