Rachel Reeves MP
Speech to LFI Annual Lunch
** Check against delivery **
Thank you, Steve.
Chief Rabbi, Ambassador, friends.
It’s such a pleasure to be here with you at LFI’s annual lunch.
And I’m especially grateful to Merav for making the journey from Israel to be with us today.
As Steve said, Merav is a politician of principle and integrity, a champion of women’s rights, and a forthright advocate of a two state solution.
She and her Labor colleagues can be so proud of what they have achieved in government over the past eighteen months.
It’s a privilege to follow in the footsteps of a distinguished line of speakers at this lunch, including Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Isaac Herzog and, last year, Keir Starmer.
The last time a Shadow Chancellor addressed this lunch was 10 years ago when Ed Balls spoke.
I served in Ed’s Shadow Treasury Team and I learned a lot from him.
And I want to begin today by giving you a pledge that I’ve not yet made since becoming Keir’s Shadow Chancellor last year.
So let me make it today:
Because I don’t share Ed’s grace and poise there will be no Gangnam Style Strictly appearances from me over the next fiscal cycle.
Let me join Steve in thanking today’s co-sponsors, Sir David Garrard and Isaac Kaye for once again making this event possible and to thank all of you who give so generously to support LFI’s work.
It’s great to see Lord Michael Levy here.
Michael Levy, thank you for your friendship over so many years and your support to our party.
And Sir Trevor Chinn thank you for your friendship and your invaluable support to Keir and our party.
I’d also like to thank Steve for his leadership of LFI along with our chair in the House of Lords, Baroness Ramsay.
And my fellow vice-chairs: Chris Evans, Sharon Hodgson, Diana Johnson, Peter Kyle, Pat McFadden, Conor McGinn, Cat McKinnell, Jonny Reynolds, John Spellar and Rosie Cooper.
And thanks to all of our parliamentary supporters, many of whom are with us today.
And I want to thank LFI for your tireless work, led by Michael Rubin and before him Jen Gerber, through challenging political times, in Britain and in Israel.
For your unwavering support for peace, coexistence and a two-state solution.
And for being at the forefront of the campaign against antisemitism.
The biggest thanks though, must go to those from across the Jewish community and the party, who led the fight against antisemitism within Labour’s ranks.
Mike Katz and the Jewish Labour Movement, Marie van der Zyl, Jonathan Goldstein, Keith Black and all our friends at the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council.
Luciana Berger, Joan Ryan, Margaret Hodge, Louise Ellman and Ruth Smeeth for your service as MPs.
Of them, only Margaret serves as an MP today and is standing down at the next election after thirty years.
Margaret, thank you for your service.
But Luciana, Joan, Louise, and Ruth, we miss you hugely in the House of Commons and it is a source of shame and sadness that you are no longer Labour MPs.
Under the last Labour leadership, too often, Jewish MPs – particularly women – were left out in the cold to defend themselves.
Under Keir’s leadership, Ruth is back in Parliament and now sits as Baroness Anderson of Stoke-on-Trent.
Ruth: I’m proud to call you a friend, and to have you back where you belong in the Parliamentary Labour Party.
And I am so pleased Louise is back in the party.
But I know our work will not be done until all those who left because of anti-Semitism feel that the Labour Party is their home again.
I know the personal hurt, and the hurt to an entire community; a community which has contributed so much to our party and to our country cannot easily be undone.
For almost five years, I watched with dismay, and with disgust, as my party failed to stand with victims of antisemitism.
And as, time and time again, Jewish MPs and members were targeted with the most grotesque campaign of abuse, of racism, and of threats.
It was an honour to be asked to return to the Shadow Cabinet by Keir.
But I was always clear that I would not have returned under any leader had there been any doubt that their first priority was to expunge the stain of antisemitism.
On the day he was elected, Keir pledged to work to tear antisemitism out of our party by its roots.
He has honoured that pledge.
Great progress has been made.
Progress that was powerfully symbolised when Keir received a standing ovation at our conference this year for his reaffirmation of that pledge.
A proud moment for all of us who felt real despair at moments under the previous Labour leadership.
But where we continue to fall short, we will take swift and firm action.
And let me be clear:
If you suggest that there something inherently wrong with the concept of Jewish self-determination alone.
Or if you claim the actions of the Israeli government are uniquely evil, or even akin to the crimes of Nazi Germany.
This goes well beyond ‘legitimate criticism of Israel’.
It is antisemitism.
And it has no place in a party which holds equality as its highest value.
This leadership will not tolerate the downplaying, the excusing, or the denial of the problem of anti-Semitism.
And that is why Jeremy Corbyn no longer sits as a Labour Member of Parliament.
Our precious relationship with the Jewish community is being rebuilt.
I saw that on the streets of Barnet and Bury this year campaigning for brilliant, Jewish Labour candidates like Liron Velleman and Ella Rose.
And I can’t wait to get on the doorstep to make David Pinto-Duschinsky the Labour MP for Hendon and make the brilliant Sarah Sackman the next Labour MP for Finchley and Golders Green.
Let me also take the opportunity to thank Mark Gardner and friends from the Community Security Trust who are here today as are their volunteers protecting this event.
Your work, day in, day out, keeping the community, its schools and synagogues safe is a tragic necessity
We thank you for this vital work and will continue support it, and you.
And let me thank Karen Pollock and her team at the Holocaust Educational Trust.
In 2011, I spent a moving, harrowing day in Auschwitz with HET.
I remember touching down in Poland on a cold February morning with a group of schoolchildren from Abbey Grange and Swallow Hill Schools in my Leeds constituency.
I will never forget that day.
And I don’t believe any of those young people will either.
I can think of few more important causes than educating young people about the horrors of the Holocaust.
I’m proud of Labour’s support in government for HET support that the next Labour government will continue.
And we will wholeheartedly and actively support plans for the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre next to the heart of our democracy.
As Shadow Chancellor, I’m sure you can all imagine I have had a busy few weeks.
So let me talk briefly about the economic situation we are facing.
Because this is a really serious moment.
We are all dealing with a crisis made in Downing Street but paid for by the British people.
The Conservatives have trapped us in this vicious cycle of stagnation.
Growth dismal. Investment down. Pay squeezed. Public services crumbling.
But even by their standards, it’s been quite a year.
Three prime ministers, four chancellors, and four budgets.
And in last week’s statement, what did we get?
Instead of an apology, or better yet a real plan to get the economy growing, all the country got was an invoice for the economic carnage that this government created.
As I was coming into Westminster last Thursday, I read a timely warning from the police about pickpockets in the area.
It warned: ‘you may have an idea of what a pickpocket looks like, but they’re far less likely to stand out in a crowd than you might think.’
‘They may work in teams to distract the target’ and ‘one of their tactics is where a thief will appear to be overfriendly while pickpocketing you.’
Well, last Thursday, the Conservatives pickpocketed the purses and wallets of the entire country as the Chancellor deployed a raft of new stealth taxes, taking billions from working people.
A Conservative double whammy that will see frozen tax thresholds and double-digit inflation erode the value of your wages.
I am confident in Labour’s alternative.
A plan to set our economy on a firm footing.
As a former Bank of England economist I know how much strong economic institutions and robust fiscal rules matter.
And that is why every policy we announce – and every line in our manifesto – will be fully costed and fully funded.
And a plan too for growth, opportunity and security in every part of our country – pro-business and pro-worker, in the knowledge that each is dependent upon the success of the other – with, as its centrepiece, our Green Prosperity Plan.
That is what we will fight the next election on.
I know we can count on many of you in this room to help us win that argument.
And to achieve growth, an incoming Labour government will fix the hole in the Tories’ Brexit deal to help British businesses trade more and retain competitiveness.
But Britain also needs to be in the business of making new international trade deals including with Israel.
And more than that, we know that there is much we can learn from Israel to deliver on that promise of growth, opportunity and security to the British people.
For me, that is about how we build a more dynamic economy through active government, working with universities and businesses, to support start-ups, tech companies and green industries.
I think of the words of the late Shimon Peres, who I had the privilege of meeting.
“In Israel, a land lacking in natural resources, we learned to appreciate our greatest national advantage: our minds.”
Israel has pioneered a digital driven economy from which we can learn important lessons as we think about how we deliver modern public services in the UK.
In May, our Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting visited Israel with LFI to examine Israel’s remarkable advances in medical technology as well as to visit Medical Aid for Palestinians and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society…
He found that what is happening in Israel is well ahead of where we are in terms of the use of mobile technology to improve ambulance and emergency response times.
And in July, David Lammy, saw first-hand the pioneering work of Ecopeace which brings together Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian environmentalists, to promote sustainable regional development and advance the conditions for lasting peace in the region.
On the green economy, too, Israel is at the cutting edge:
Leading in water recycling and atmospheric water technology;
Developing cleantech initiatives to reduce environmental risks and the use of natural resources in energy generation;
And building on a young but fast-growing climate tech start-up sector; encompassing climate-smart agriculture, clean energy and sustainable transport.
And crucially, the challenge of tackling the climate and energy crises is being turned into an opportunity to build new bridges of cooperation and coexistence: with the deal between the UAE, Jordan and Israel to build a solar power plant in the Hashemite Kingdom, to generate electricity for Israel and a desalination plant in Israel to send water to Jordan.
Two years ago, the Abraham Accords marked a diplomatic breakthrough.
Can I just say how heartening it is that we’re joined today by ambassadors and deputy ambassadors from Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates?
Thank you for being here today, and for your nation’s efforts to promote peace and prosperity.
Given all the innovation we see in Israel, I can announce a new initiative today.
In September, Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds launched Labour’s modern industrial strategy, built around four missions.
One of these is an aim to maximise the potential of AI and tech in the UK for economic growth, stronger public services, and people’s quality of life.
Israel has the third highest number of AI start-ups in the world after the USA and China, and is attracting huge amounts of investment into AI and other tech sectors.
The next Labour government will therefore ask the Industrial Strategy Council to work with Israeli partners to review best practice in policy-making to support the development of data and AI-driven health solutions, and explore the lessons the UK can learn from Israel’s success.
And, as we prepare for the next election and for government, we will engage with start-ups and policymakers, drawing on the expertise of LFI to understand how policy choices have played a part in that success.
Many of us here were watching nervously ahead of Israel’s elections earlier this month.
I know the pain that the results have caused for our friends in the Israeli Labor party and Meretz.
These elections were painful too for those of us who care about, and support, Israel.
As in France, Italy and Sweden earlier this year, the success of far-right extremist parties is incredibly worrying, and I know those concerns are shared by many in the Jewish community in the UK.
The prospect of ministerial roles being given to those with racist, discriminatory or homophobic views is an affront to the democratic values we hold dear and the antithesis of Israel’s founding principles.
Labour will always call out policies that infringe human rights, are racist or discriminatory, or which break democratic norms.
It vital that all of us who care about Israel’s future stand steadfastly behind the goal of a peaceful two state solution and the upholding of international law.
The painful truth is the hope of a two state solution is in peril.
We cannot allow it to disappear from the political horizon.
That hope of two states for two peoples remains the bedrock of Labour’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Only a negotiated, diplomatic settlement, based on two states, can bring a permanent end to the occupation, fully address Israeli security concerns and build a future in which all Israelis and Palestinians enjoy security, dignity and human rights.
As Keir pledged a year ago: we will strive at all times to be pro-Israel, pro-Palestine and pro-peace.
It is why we will always condemn acts of terrorism and extremism, including those by Hamas and Hezbollah.
It is why we oppose illegal settlements and evictions that undermine the prospects of a viable Palestinian state.
It is why we remain committed to supporting the establishment of an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, which I know is an issue upon which LFI has long campaigned.
And why the Labour Party does not – and will not – support policies of Boycott, Divestment and Sanction against the State of Israel.
They single out the world’s sole Jewish state.
They hold it to higher standards than others.
And they are counterproductive to the cause of peace
Hope for security and positive change in the region extends to Iran where protestors, led by women and girls, are demanding in a loud and clear voice an end to brutal repression under the Islamic Republic.
These courageous women are putting their lives on the line for the right to live free of repressive diktats on what they should wear and how they choose to live their lives.
We stand in solidarity with them.
The Iranian regime poses a threat to its own people, a threat to Israel and a threat to regional and international security, and it must be held to account for its aggressive actions at home and abroad.
To me, being a friend of Israel means supporting a safe and secure Israel, alongside the establishment of a sovereign and viable Palestinian state.
I know that the politics of hate and division is rejected by millions of Israelis, and that the deep historic relationship between the UK and Israel outlasts any specific party in power
It must not be forgotten or squandered.
Let me say to you, Merav:
We will stand with you and with our sister parties, as you work to rebuild.
And we will support all those Israelis and Palestinians who yearn and work for peace, reconciliation and coexistence so that they can beat the politics of hate and division.
This year we were so pleased to welcome members of Israeli Labor to London to share best practice around digital, campaigning and policy development, and we will continue to work closely with our sister parties worldwide.
Our relationship with Israel has deep roots, for our party and for me personally.
I first visited Israel with LFI when I was the Parliamentary Candidate for Bromley in 2005 and have returned to Israel three times since.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite able to turn Bromley red, but I learned so much on that first visit and those subsequent ones: visiting Yad Vashem, seeing the pioneering work of Israeli businesses and start-ups, and meeting Israeli and Palestinian political leaders, thinkers and commentators.
Those visits deepened my belief in the importance of a Jewish homeland and increased my understanding of the complexity of the conflict.
As a Christian, I was moved to spend time in a place so important to people of so many faiths.
And, thanks to LFI, I also got to see first hand the beauty of the land of Israel and the warmth of its people.
That’s why I’m proud to be a friend of Israel and proud of Labour’s historic support for a Jewish homeland.
We can all take pride from our historic ties.
Labour backed the cause of a Jewish homeland before the Balfour Declaration itself.
Labour didn’t abandon its support when others sought to do so in the 1930s.
And Labour governments have stood by Israel, in the good times and the bad.
Now some of you might know I have my own passion for Labour history.
And I was really pleased to find out that, in 1949, Alice Bacon, the only woman to represent the city of Leeds in Parliament before me, led an official party delegation to Israel.
Alice authored a report recommending full recognition of the new state, assistance with its economic recovery and the establishment of strong relations.
I’m also grateful to Ruth for pointing me towards Michael Freedland’s wonderful radio series ‘You Don’t Have To Be Jewish’ from the 1970s,
And I’m glad Jonathan Freedland is with us today too.
One story leapt out from that series.
Harold Wilson’s affection for Golda Meir was so great that when she arrived unexpectedly at a dinner in London, he spontaneously kissed her.
In response to the alarm of diplomats, Wilson told his office:
‘If they want an explanation, it was just sex.’
Labour has always been an internationalist party.
Our support for Israel is rooted in that tradition.
It has been a privilege to address you here today.
With Keir as leader, and with me as Shadow Chancellor, we are renewing our commitment to our time-honoured values:
A party which fights antisemitism and hatred at home and abroad;
which stands with Britain’s Jews and celebrates their contribution to our national life;
And which maintains our historic commitment to the world’s only Jewish state.
I am proud to be friend of Israel.
And I am proud to be a Labour friend of Israel.