Who to blame for the demise of Labour’s £28 billion annual green investment pledge? According to Keir Starmer, it’s the Conservatives. He said this afternoon: ‘What would be really irresponsible is to know the damage done to the economy by this failed government and ignore that and pretend it didn’t happen.’ The party briefing is that because the Conservatives have crashed the economy and Jeremy Hunt plans to ‘max out’ the country’s credit card, the £28 billion is now unaffordable.
A quick way to set fire to voters’ trust in you is to drop your fiscal rules as soon as they don’t feel very fun. Within the party, there is a debate about whether Ed Miliband or Rachel Reeves is to blame. Miliband, as shadow energy secretary, is accused of pushing so hard for it in the first place. The charge against Reeves is that she has exerted so much power that the party is failing to look remotely ambitious about the future. Those who blame Miliband are, interestingly, not particularly malign towards him: they just think he’s very good at working hard and making the (wrong) case for (wrong) policies. Those who blame Reeves think that Labour doesn’t need to be so cautious about its economic credibility when the Conservatives have burnt theirs.
A third school of thought, that largely hails from the grandee wing of the party, is that while Keir Starmer is ruthless enough to change the Labour party, he still doesn’t really know what he personally believes. That’s why the shadow frontbench has spent the past few weeks in a weird public liveblog about what it thinks about whether the £28 billion should stay or go. Starmer hasn’t exerted control over colleagues in the way he does when it comes to internal party matters, for the simple reason that he doesn’t know what he wants to control.