Political drama has served as a distraction from the crises facing British businesses


By:

Keir Starmer


Sir Keir Starmer is leader of the Labour party

This last two weeks in many ways saw high political drama. A governing party that tried to rig the system so one of its own could continue in a second job that is clearly against the rules. The revelation that a sitting Conservative MP received £133m for test kits which had to be recalled. And uproar across our northern regions when a long standing political promise to deliver rail was outright broken. 

Yet the backdrop to this, in the world outside Westminster is even more dramatic.  British business is having its own resilience tested every day. Supply chain problems, price inflation,  labour shortages, skills shortages and rising taxes. The whole country is paying the price for the poor decisions being made.

Brexit is perhaps the most stark example. We have a Prime Minister who thinks it was enough to ‘get Brexit done’ and cares little about how to make Brexit work.

Let me be clear: Labour does not want a rematch. Brexit has happened and we are not going to rejoin. But, clearly, the government’s deal is full of holes. That is most obvious and damaging in Northern Ireland. There, the government’s protocol is so hopeless that Lord Frost, the man who negotiated and signed it keeps making speeches in the House of Lords informing us that it doesn’t work and threatening to revoke it. 

After the twin crises of Brexit and Covid we need to reset. In many ways, so did the Labour Party when I took over 18 months ago. That reset meant demonstrating that Labour was, once again, the party of business. It meant showing business that as the party of work, we understand the need for stability, security, and a plan. Only then, by government working in partnership with business can we achieve the productivity that our country so desperately needs. 

Britain’s poor record on productivity is owed to the fact that we don’t invest enough in capital stock, infrastructure and technology. Our export performance is poor, many of our cities are not the powerhouses we need them to be, and, most of all, we are not keeping pace with the demand for new skills. In short, we are not getting the next generation ready for work. 

We have a task on our hands. A recent survey showed that 80 per cent of businesses were worried about skills. Britain does much worse in digital skills than our main competitors. We have far too many students who emerge from full-time education without the skills they need for work. They lose out, employers lose out, the nation loses out and it will be the mission of the Labour party to fix this.

Secure, well paid, skilled work is not separate from good business. It is the driver of good business. It drives enterprise, wealth creation, and from there, great communities to live in. This is how the Labour Party I lead see our partnership. 

Labour, as our name implies, is the party of working people. When business profits, we all do. And the role of government in supporting that is unquestionable. We’ll incentivise new start-ups, we’ll scrap unfair business rates, with our plans to buy, make and sell more in Britain, we’ll “Make it Here”, and with our ambitious £28bn a year Climate Investment pledge we’ll guarantee Britain leads in the jobs of the future. 

We have policies to secure this country’s long-term prosperity. We need to invest in the future. We cannot afford not to. A view I hold, but this government doesn’t seem to share. I will work with business to harness growth for the future, by running the stable government and the tight ship that our country’s prosperity depends on.

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