The first speech I gave in the Labour leadership contest was on the economy and business. I acknowledged that, despite many pro-growth policies, too many businesses, their owners and employees looked at the Labour Party in recent years and did not see a party that understood their challenges or was on their side.
This was a huge failure by the Labour Party. Too many people, many of whom read this paper every day, saw a vote for Labour as a risk they couldn’t take. To regain that trust, we have to admit where we got it wrong and start anew.
As leader of the Labour Party, I will transform our approach, giving a positive vision for Labour, helping everyone to get on in life, and on the side of businesses – large, small and the self-employed – once again.
Fundamentally, to ask City A.M. readers to vote Labour, the party must be a credible government-in-waiting with a big vision. Central to this is whether we can be trusted on the economy. The first step is to be candid about our record in government – what we got right, and what we got wrong.
Let’s remember that, on the eve of the financial crisis, national debt had been reduced to just 37 per cent of GDP by the last Labour government, and we had run more surpluses than the Tories had managed to in 18 years. The deficit we were running was small by historical standards. And we must be clear that Labour spending on education and the health service didn’t cause the global crisis. I am proud that there are millions of Londoners whose children go to schools and colleges that vastly improved under the last Labour government and whose relatives have benefited from drastically reduced NHS waiting times.
But, small though it was, we were still running a deficit at the peak of a booming economy. That is why I began my leadership campaign by acknowledging that, in government, we should have done more to tackle that deficit in the middle of the last decade, so that we were better prepared when the crisis hit.
When we are honest about the past, we can get more of a hearing about our plans for the future. In this campaign, I’ve set out serious, credible and far-reaching policies addressing challenges that the country and its businesses face: addressing skills gaps through transformed technical and professional education and in partnership with businesses; tackling the infrastructure problem our country has, from rail to broadband, with a National Infrastructure Commission backed by a National Investment Bank; and a revolution in housebuilding, with a “rent to own” scheme to help first time buyers, to tackle the housing crisis felt acutely by so many Londoners.
Businesses should have an active partner in a Labour government. I want a Green Investment Bank that has serious powers to borrow and invest in the carbon-free technologies of the future. And I will establish a comprehensive review of business taxation to rebalance it towards supporting growth, including sweeping away the burdensome system of business rates and looking at a more economically efficient Land Value Tax to replace them.
Every poll of the general public has said that I am the leadership candidate who they most believe could be Prime Minister. I am fighting to be elected leader of the Labour Party to unify it and to offer the country in 2020 a credible Labour government with an inspiring vision that will help everyone to get on in life.