Kate Andrews Kate Andrews

Why Starmer had to ditch his £28 billion green pledge

(Photo: Getty)

What will Labour’s flagship promise be going into the next election? There’s a policy vacancy, now that the party plans to ditch its pledge to spend £28 billion a year on green investment. 

This is not your average U-turn. This has been Labour’s big offering for more than two years. Yet today, Keir Starmer will ditch the headline figure for good – though his party still plans to usher in other parts of their proposed ‘Green Prosperity Plan’. 

By abandoning the £28 billion promise, Stamer is putting to rest what had become a contentious topic within his own party. The spending promise – which shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves first committed to back in 2021 – has become increasingly diluted over the past year. Reeves had to acknowledge last summer that the money would arrive closer to the end of Labour’s first parliament rather than at the beginning. Since then, there have been questions about whether such a spending commitment could really be achieved until a second term. 

If Labour wants to stump up cash for other initiatives it cannot have an additional £28 billion a year that it must find to make the books balance

As Katy Balls reported this week, Labour MPs weren’t just putting out mixed messages about the green spending plans: they were doubling down on them, with chief secretary to the Treasury Darren Jones insisting last week that the figure would be scrapped. The Labour leader himself seemed to suggest at the start of the week that he would stick by his commitment to deliver the cash. Meanwhile his deputy leader Angela Rayner both endorsed the  £28 billion number, while also labelling it an ‘arbitrary number’. 

It seems the Jones argument has won the internal debate: that according to Labour’s own plans for fiscal rules (which will need to see the national debt falling as a percentage of GDP), this kind of borrowing and spending would simply not be feasible anytime soon.

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