The woman with the hardest job in Westminster?

Keir Starmer’s reshuffle has given Rachel Reeves perhaps the most difficult task of them all – challenging the plans of a Tory chancellor who is spending public money like none before him, writes Sean O’Grady

Sunday 16 May 2021 19:49
<p>Ex-Blairite, ex-Burnhamite and ex-Milibandite shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves </p>

Ex-Blairite, ex-Burnhamite and ex-Milibandite shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves

The new shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, has enjoyed rapid promotion after spending a leisurely, thoughtful few years on the back benches during the Corbyn regime. As one of those who can be easily identified as “centrist” – or new-fascistic, in Corbynite demonology – she can hardly have been surprised to find herself marginalised. Given that, during her time in Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet, she’d made the case for deficit reduction, rejected the notion that Labour was a pressure group for the poor, and promised she’d be tougher than the Tories in controlling welfare spending, she can hardly be surprised that she went out of fashion so quickly.

As she sees it now, she was making the right point in the wrong way: “One of the things that I said was, ‘We’re the party of working people, the clue is in the name.’ And then I got criticised: ‘Well, what about the unemployed and people who can’t work?’ Well, of course, the Labour Party is the party of them: people who are out of work, looking for work; people who can’t work because of illness or disability or caring responsibilities. They’re all part of that working class.

“I was trying to make the point, however badly, that spending more on benefits wasn’t always a sign of success. And actually the benefits bill goes up when society fails. Maybe I didn’t always say it right. But that was the point I was trying to make.” It was to cost her.

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