Rachel Reeves’s seemingly empty waffle has been decoded – and it’s terrifying

The shadow chancellor's Mais Lecture set out her philosophy of 'securonomics'
The shadow chancellor set out her philosophy of 'securonomics' in the Mais Lecture - Maja Smiejkowska/REUTERS

The general election has been called and the respective party leaders are busy trying to define what it is all about.

Should we recognise and nurture a slow recovery or change course to avoid chaos and incompetence? Or from a different perspective, must we lash ourselves to the submerging mast of net zero, or focus on repelling the cultural assault proffered by mass immigration and wokery?

Yet none of these false constructs (that are not mutually exclusive) confront the key question that the broadcast media interrogators also fail to address – what will Keir Starmer’s Labour actually do if fortunate enough to gain power?

In the absence of clear declarations of intent by the Labour leadership (other than putting 20pc VAT on independent school fees and hiking taxes on domestic oil and gas production) I have felt compelled to write a series of articles seeking to establish the reality of Labour economic policy, as it will determine the parameters for everything else it will do.

I have looked at Labour-leaning think tanks, the key tax advisers to Labour and all suggest Labour will make no commitments but then introduce sly and stealthy taxes by expanding the scope of existing taxes in ways that especially hit pensioners, savers, motorists and the self-employed.

Yet I still find readers raising doubts in the comment sections (yes, I do read them) and sometimes deflecting to the Conservative record (which I have been just as critical of) as if that excuses Labour’s lack of candour.

Fortunately a new and reliable source of illumination that can reveal Labour’s real intentions is at hand. The international banking and finance consultant, Bob Lyddon, has spent a great deal of time poring over the Mais Lecture given by shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves in March and sought to decipher what her seemingly empty waffle and cryptic euphemisms actually meant.

He has written up a 56-page report “Stripping away the jargon” that drills down into the detail of her intentionally opaque verbiage, and then, no doubt fearing the scale of the task might prove too much for most to digest, distilled that into a shorter 16-page paper “Decoding Rachel Reeves”.

Lyddon, who gained a first in modern languages at Cambridge and is fluent in Norwegian, Dutch, German and French has now added “Reevespeak” to his lexicon and is letting us in on its secrets.

By translating into plain English what Rachel Reeves has said on record in her own obscure language, Lyddon has identified Labour wishes to go into a general election without any democratic limits to its future spending plans. This can only lead to painful tax increases, not just now, but also for future generations to come.

Phrases such as “Investment through partnership between strategic government and enterprising business” might baffle us, but actually mean that firms and financial institutions will be pushed into investing in Labour projects on the basis of taxpayer guarantees. So tell us Rachel, are you going to spend more, will you tax us more, will you borrow more? After analysing your Mais lecture, Bob Lyddon has come to the conclusion the answer must be yes, yes, and yes.

Rachel Reeves talked up the supposed halcyon days of expansive public borrowing under Gordon Brown and in particular the use of PFI (private finance initiative) “investment” that is still costing us billions to repay today. The total of PFI payments from 1996/97 up to the final transaction due in 2052/53 is £278.3bn, an astonishing 555pc of the £50.1bn capital sum.

Of those 669 PFI contracts, 588 were under Labour governments. Even the left-of-centre Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) estimated £13bn of PFI-funded capital investment dating back to Labour from 1998 had cost the NHS £80bn and by 2019 it still had £55bn to pay. By 2030 PFI payments will be costing the NHS £2.5bn annually and some NHS trusts have ended up with a fifth of their budgets going on PFI repayments alone.

Recognising government borrowing is already near its limits, Reeves is unrepentant about finding ways to work around prudence, transparency and accountability. In her Mais speech she signalled how she will ape the EU’s off-the-balance-sheet PFI-style borrowing known as InvestEU, so that the debt lurks in the shadows rather than in plain sight. It is consistent with Labour’s ambition of realignment with the EU and will result in the same sub-optimal levels of economic growth.

Reeves went on to explain how net zero provides all the justification required for higher spending, to which she and Labour are committed. Pension funds shall be directed to deploy their investments to get behind net zero infrastructure that will further extend state control of our economy – irrespective of the damage to pension returns in the future.

To deliver this cocktail of excessive state spending and centralised regulatory direction Reeves also promises to establish new unaccountable institutions – yet more quangos and agencies for Labour’s nomenklatura, whose loyalty and secrecy is bought with eye-watering taxpayer-funded salaries and pensions.

Although taxes will have to go up – but no fresh details were given that could be decoded – much of the bill will be presented not to us, but to the generations of the future, our grandchildren especially, who cannot be asked if they accept the burden. It is wrapped up and presented as “securenomics” but such is the economic devastation it risks, there is nothing secure about it, and where it is economic it is only in evading telling the truth.

So there we have it. While Labour will continue to avoid admitting its real intentions, its direction of travel is clear and the means to achieve it are already understood. Lucid journalists have less than six weeks to ask the right questions and then, no doubt, further question the ambiguous answers until we get to the truth.

Labour speaks, deliberates and issues orders through political cyphers. Thank goodness Bob Lyddon cracked Labour’s enigma code.