Angela Rayner to open Labour conference with pledge to ‘make work pay’

Angela Rayner will set out Labour’s plan to make workers better off as she opens the party’s conference in Liverpool on Sunday.

Labour MPs, delegates and lobbyists will descend on the city for five days of policy debate, rallies and networking.

Party leader Sir Keir Starmer will head to the annual gathering boosted by a comfortable lead in the polls and a resounding by-election victory over the SNP in Scotland’s Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat.

She accused Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of “taking a sledgehammer” to these.

Ahead of the conference, which carries the slogan “Let’s get Britain’s future back”, she said: “With five prime ministers in seven years and constant chaos and instability, Britain’s future has been left to take a back seat. The Tories’ legacy is national decline – a nation levelled down and starved of hope.

“While the Tories have stolen Britain’s future, it’s Labour that will give it back with our plan to make working people better off by securing growth for all people and in all places.”

Ms Rayner will flesh out Labour’s planned new deal for workers, which she said aims to “boost wages, make work more secure and support working people to thrive”.

“It’s how Labour will make work pay,” she said.

Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election
Labour’s by-election victory in Rutherglen and Hamilton West provided Sir Keir Starmer with a boost ahead of the conference (Jane Barlow/PA)

The Opposition’s plan for secure homes to “end the Tories’ housing emergency” will also feature in Ms Rayner’s speech, as well as a pledge to oversee the “biggest ever transfer of power out of Westminster” to help the places “abandoned” by the Conservatives.

In an interview with the Guardian, she promised the party would focus on getting tough on developers and reforming planning rules to deliver “the biggest boost to affordable housing for a generation”.

Under its plans, Labour would set up a new expert unit to give councils and housing associations advice to get the best deal during negotiations with property firms, the paper reported.

This would be aimed at preventing developers from “wriggling out” of their affordable housing obligations, known as section 106 rules, Ms Rayner said.

It would publish guidance that would effectively restrict them to challenging 106 rules only if there were genuine barriers to building homes, according to the paper.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves will take to the main stage on Monday to detail how Labour would revive the sluggish economy, before Sir Keir’s keynote address on Tuesday.

Business chiefs are flocking to the Labour conference, with the party saying tickets to its business forum sold out in record time and noting an unprecedented interest in sponsorship.

The Labour Party women’s conference will take place in Liverpool on Saturday, the day before the main events get under way.

Conservative Party Conference 2023
Rishi Sunak used his Tory conference speech to cancel the northern leg of HS2 (Danny Lawson/PA)

Mr Sunak defied senior Tories and business leaders to scrap the rail line from Birmingham to Manchester, saying “the facts have changed” and the cost of the high-speed rail scheme had “more than doubled”.

Sir Keir has said Labour cannot commit to reversing the decision if it wins the next general election due to the “damage” done by the Government.

The Tories urged the Labour leader to clarify his position on HS2, as well as his support for a raft of transport schemes announced by Mr Sunak in place of the cancelled leg.

Conservative Party chairman Greg Hands said: “We all know Keir Starmer won’t tell us his plans if he becomes prime minister because he’s afraid of losing votes, and he changes his position to whatever he thinks people want to hear.

“Our country faces an important choice: Rishi Sunak, who will make the hard but necessary long-term decisions to get the country on the right path for the future, or Sir Keir Starmer, who is just like the same old politicians that have come before – always focused on the short-term and lacking the backbone to make the big changes Britain needs.”

Labour’s win in the Rutherglen by-election this week provided a huge boost to Sir Keir ahead of the conference, with analysts inferring its possible return to being the largest party north of the border and a clearer path to a Labour majority at Westminster if the same swing is replicated at the next national poll.

Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said: “In what is likely to be the final conference season before the general election, it has never been more clear that Labour has the plans to unlock growth, make our streets safe, secure the future of the NHS, break down barriers to opportunity and make the UK a green energy superpower.”

In its first policy announcement ahead of the Liverpool gathering, Labour pledged to create an extra 700,000 urgent dentist appointments and introduce supervised toothbrushing in schools across England under plans to improve the nation’s oral health.

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