Reeves outlines plan to ‘rebuild Britain’ after dark night

As Chancellor in waiting on the campaign trail, Rachel Reeves had taken some flak for not talking a big enough game, that proverbial ‘ming vase’ being carried with perhaps just a little too much caution. Now, 72 hours into the gig, she could afford to cut loose. Well, a little bit.  

Lauren Hurley / No 10 Downing Street

“Be in no doubt – we are going to get Britain building again. We are going to get Britain’s economy growing again. And there is no time to waste.”

Amidst the vision there was, of course, expectation management - you don’t completely kick the habit overnight. Before Reeves got on to the future, there needed to be some degree of reckoning with the past. And a couple of shots fired. 

“I have repeatedly warned that whoever won the general election would inherit the worst set of circumstances since the Second World War,” she said.

“What I have seen in the past 72 hours has only confirmed that…we face the legacy of fourteen years of chaos and economic irresponsibility…a refusal to confront the tough and responsible decisions that are demanded. This government will be different.”

Naturally, the Chancellor had brought receipts.

New Treasury analysis that I requested over the weekend shows that, had the UK economy grown at the average rate of other OECD economies this last 13 years, our economy would have been over £140bn larger.

“This could have brought in an additional £58bn in tax revenues in the last year alone. That’s money that could have revitalised our schools, our hospitals, and other public services.”

Ugh. Ok, enough of that now Rachel. Brighter future ahead and all that, new dawn etc. How do we get out of this mess? I remember hearing a lot about ‘growth’ during the campaign, but details were a little…sketchy. And I definitely remember you were very clear that there would be…

“No increases in National Insurance, and the basic, higher, or additional rates of Income Tax, or VAT.”

The Chancellor wasn’t going to be rolling back on that one in her maiden speech. The fabled growth would, of course, be driven primarily through private investment. The government would simply act as the facilitator, helping business do business. Because this government really likes business.

“After fourteen years, Britain has a stable government. A government that respects business, wants to partner with business, and is open for business.”

Business will be supported by the new National Wealth Fund, which former Bank of England governor Mark Carney will help establish. Bit light on detail, “announcing the next steps in short order” apparently.

Then on to planning reform. More meat on the bones here. The Chancellor not only loves business: when it comes to planning reform, she means business.

Planning reform has become a byword for political timidity in the face of vested interests and a graveyard of economic ambition. Our antiquated planning system leaves too many important projects getting tied up in years and years of red tape before shovels ever get into the ground.”

Rachel is not messing around here. 

The system needs a new signal. This is that signal.”

Rachel has her own signal. Rachel is Batman, here to drive fear into the hearts of all who stand in the way of planning reform. Nothing can stop her. She’s the hero Britain deserves AND the one it needs right now, “willing, even, to risk short-term political pain to fix Britain’s foundations.”

Reeves is really cooking now. We’re getting a new National Planning Policy Framework. Onshore wind is back, baby, and it sounds like it may well come under a new Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime, “meaning decisions on large developments will be taken nationally not locally.”

One and a half million homes over the next five years. A new taskforce to accelerate stalled housing sites. 300 new planning officers to help grease the wheels and turn some of this ambition into reality. And Angela Rayner (Robin?) will be on hand to help crack some skulls as well.

“The Deputy Prime Minister has said that when she intervenes in the economic planning system…she will not hesitate to review an application where the potential gain for the regional and national economies warrant it…and I welcome her decision to recover two planning appeals already, for data centres in Buckinghamshire and in Hertfordshire.”

Louise Haigh and Ed Miliband are getting in on the action too. Reeves is basically assembling her very own Justice League.

We will ask the Secretaries of State for Transport and Energy Security and Net Zero to prioritise decisions on infrastructure projects that have been sitting unresolved for far too long.

We will introduce a modern industrial strategy…we will reform our skills system…we will tackle economic inactivity and get people back to work…we will take on the hard work of reforming our public services.”

All good stuff, all good stuff. But Rachel knows talk is cheap. We’ve heard lots of this before, albeit from other mouths, mouths that - it turned out - could not always be trusted. This time, we are told, will be different. 

You have put your trust in us. And we will repay that trust. The work towards a decade of national renewal has begun. There is no time to waste. And we are just getting started.”

Watch out Gotham Britain, there’s a new sheriff in town.