Labour’s Rachel Reeves heckled for ruling out tax rises for the rich


Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves had a hard time at the FTWeekend Festival on Saturday. In a panel about Labour’s plans, hack Robert Shrimsley joked that Reeves’s pledge not to bring in a wealth tax would win over the rich Financial Times reading audience. Then two hecklers from the Green New Deal Rising group started a protest with a “tax wealth now” banner. Reeves’ stance on tax has earned some odd admirers — this weekend, Right-wing US senator Chuck Grassley praised her as “Reagan-esque”.

She got a hard time from the FT crowd. When Shrimsley asked why Labour had become pro-Brexit, the EU-loving audience burst into jeers. Reeves countered that her Leeds constituents have a different view. She may want to check her facts: Leeds voted, narrowly, to Remain.

By the end, she’d zoned out. Asked to give the last word on unifying the country, Reeves said: “Sorry, I didn’t hear that.” Shrimsley blamed her G&T.

There was a crackle of tension between the other two panellists, Camilla Cavendish, an FT columnist and former David Cameron advisor, and John McTernan, former speechwriter for Tony Blair.

McTernan spoke of “the betrayal of David Cameron and George Osborne, who said we’re all in it together, and then absolutely made sure it was people on benefits who suffered.” Cavendish, who was made a Baroness by Cameron when he resigned in 2016, interrupted: “They actually raised taxes on the rich far more than Tony Blair did.” “I had the respect not to heckle you”, shot back McTernan, to the amusement of the audience.