Johnson accused of putting his self-interest ahead of the welfare of the North

Labour’s conference has been overshadowed by a resignation and a description of the Conservative cabinet as scum

Rachel Reeves, Labour’s  shadow chancellor of the exchequer, and leader  Kier Starmer at  the annual Labour Party conference in Brighton. Photograph:  Hollie Adams/Bloomberg

Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow chancellor of the exchequer, and leader Kier Starmer at the annual Labour Party conference in Brighton. Photograph: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg

 

Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary has accused Boris Johnson of undermining the peace process and putting his self-interest ahead of the welfare of the North. Louise Haigh told Labour’s annual conference in Brighton that the Belfast Agreement was more fragile than at any time since it was signed in 1998.

“This reckless Tory government has not only neglected the peace process, they have actively undermined it. And I don’t say this lightly. Northern Ireland should not be a partisan issue. In the Labour Party we pay tribute to the work done by John Major who helped lay the ground for the Good Friday Agreement,” she said. 

“But Boris Johnson has not, will not and frankly cannot live up to that standard. This is a prime minister who has repeatedly placed his own political self-interest over the interests of Northern Ireland, who promised that he would never place barriers down the Irish Sea, and then did it, who signed an international treaty and then broke it, who negotiated every single word in the Northern Ireland protocol and now blames everyone else for the consequences.”

Labour’s conference has been overshadowed by rows over rule changes and deputy leader Angela Rayner’s description of the Conservative cabinet as scum. Shadow secretary of state for employment rights Andy McDonald resigned from the front bench on Monday evening after party leader Keir Starmer told him to oppose increasing the national minimum wage to £15 (€17.50) an hour.

“After many months of a pandemic when we made commitments to stand by key workers, I cannot now look those same workers in the eye and tell them they are not worth a wage that is enough to live on, or that they don’t deserve security when they are ill,” he said in a letter to Sir Keir.  

“After 18 months of your leadership our movement is more divided than ever, and the many pledges you made to the membership are not being honoured.”

Climate crisis

Mr McDonald’s resignation came hours after shadow chancellor of the exchequer Rachel Reeves told the conference that Labour would invest £28 billion, equivalent to half of the defence budget, in measures to address the climate crisis. 

“I will invest in this country’s green transition: gigafactories to build batteries for electric vehicles, thriving hydrogen industry, offshore wind with turbines made in Britain, more green places and safe cycle paths, planting trees and building flood defences, keeping homes warm and getting energy bills down, good new jobs in communities throughout Britain. In other words, protecting and strengthening our everyday economy,” she said.

Ms Reeves said that although the £28 billion new annual capital investment would be funded by borrowing, she would abide by fiscal rules to ensure that other government spending would be paid for through taxation.

She said that tech giants should pay more tax, telling Amazon chief Jeff Bezos “if you can afford to fly to the moon, you can afford to pay your taxes here on earth”.