Labour’s Rachel Reeves has finally got it right on rising energy bills

Politically, Reeves has ended up in roughly the right place, proposing targeted help for people least able to afford higher bills, while keeping the headline-grabbing and slightly Brexity cut in VAT, writes John Rentoul

Tuesday 11 January 2022 16:23
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<p>The surprising result, therefore, is that Labour and the Tories have ended up in roughly the same place</p>

The surprising result, therefore, is that Labour and the Tories have ended up in roughly the same place

No sooner had Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, stood up in the Commons to make the case for Labour’s plan to protect people from rising energy costs than she was interrupted. Gary Sambrook, a Conservative MP, pointed out that her plan to cut VAT on energy bills was only possible because Britain had left the EU – which she opposed.

She was unembarrassed. “We want to make Brexit work,” she told him. “We’ve got this power; let’s bring it in now.” In the looking-glass world of politics, Labour proposes a policy that would be possible only because it lost, while the government refuses to take a populist measure that would allow it to proclaim a Brexit dividend.

Indeed, what was significant about today’s Labour-inspired debate was that Simon Clarke, the chief secretary to the Treasury, ruled out a VAT cut. It had been speculated that the government might cut some of the ground from under Reeves’s feet by adopting her policy, and claim it as a Brexit win, but Clarke was explicit in saying that he would not.

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