Leadership is not just about having the conviction to take the right decision. It is about having the strength to follow it through. The behaviour of Suella Braverman last week was deeply irresponsible. At a time when those in power should be working with the police to keep our streets safe, she was undermining them. And at a time when our leaders should be working to bring our communities together, she was trying to pull them apart.
Rishi Sunak knew this. He knew what she was saying and doing was wrong, but he was too weak to do anything about it. Putting party first, country second. Unable to take the tough decisions. It’s a pattern of behaviour we see time and time again from this prime minister – including on the economy.
The British economy is not working. Growth numbers on Friday showed an economy that is flatlining. The Bank of England’s forecasts earlier in the month paint a bleak picture of persistently low growth for years to come. And the cost of living crisis continues to bite for families across the country, with rising prices in the shops and higher mortgage payments.
It angers me that we have got to this place. As a country, we have extraordinary potential. We have some of the most creative minds, innovative companies and impressive universities in the world. We should be leading the global race and instead we are lagging behind.
The responsibility for this economic failure lies squarely at the door of the Conservative party. Now, I know that is an easy thing for a shadow chancellor to say. But the facts speak for themselves. Thirteen years in power, five prime ministers, seven chancellors, austerity, a Brexit without a plan, an economic crash, 25 Tory tax rises and working people worse off. Our economy – like our country – is crying out for change from the chaos of the past.
That starts with taking the action necessary to prevent a repeat of Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-budget. As a former economist at the Bank of England, I know the damage that is done when our institutions are undermined: working people are worse off. When the Conservatives crashed the economy, mortgages and rents soared as interest rates rose. We can never let that happen again.
That is why I have pledged that a future Labour government will strengthen the Office for Budget Responsibility so that any administration making significant, permanent tax and spending changes will be subject to an independent forecast of its impact. This will bring security back to our economy and prevent a rerun of last year’s chaos.
This week Labour will put those plans to a vote in parliament. If Sunak wants to put country first, then he will show the strength to stand up to those in his party who crashed the economy and vote with us. If not, he will prove that all he can offer is more of the same and that the biggest risk to the economy is another five years of the Conservatives.
I am under no illusion about the scale of the task ahead if Labour wins the election. Just as I have had to say no in opposition, I will have to say no in power. But despite what we might inherit, we have already shown that we have the strength and determination to rise to the challenges ahead. A plan to fix our broken planning system so we can build the homes, rail and infrastructure we need. A plan to work in partnership with business to invest in the industries of the future so we can cut bills, create jobs and tackle the climate crisis. And a plan to make work pay by introducing a genuine living wage to create good, well-paid jobs. A bold, credible plan that will make working people better off.
With Keir Starmer’s leadership, we have shown the strength and determination to change the Labour party. In power, we will show the strength and determination to change our country for the better.