Britain’s opposition Labour Party promised on Monday to use borrowed money to protect struggling industries and spur growth, setting out an economic policy it hopes will re-engage with working class voters who backed leaving the European Union.
Predicting a snap election next year, Labour is using its annual conference to outline its plans to win back the voters that abandoned the party at a 2015 election and spurned the political establishment by backing Brexit.
Labour re-elected leader Jeremy Corbyn on Saturday following a failed attempt to oust him after the EU referendum. Having won with an increased mandate, he is set on shifting the party further to the left, away from the pro-business centre ground that delivered it its last spell in power between 1997 and 2010.
Finance spokesman John McDonnell said Labour wanted to use low interest rates to borrow 100 billion pounds ($130 billion) and leverage it to create a 250-billion-pound investment fund focused on reviving British manufacturing.
“That will be invested in our infrastructure and in skills, and it will be distributed around the country,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain show from the party’s annual conference in the northern English city of Liverpool.
Backed by trade unions and historically the party of Britain’s working classes, Labour’s support in former industrial regions in northern and central England has fallen, undermining their chances of winning parliamentary elections.
“We know from the Brexit vote, as a result of what’s happened to our traditional industries, large numbers of communities and individuals outside of London and the southeast feel left behind,” McDonnell told Sky News.
Britain, currently governed by the centre-right Conservatives, is not scheduled to hold a national election until 2020.
But Labour says the Brexit vote, which forced David Cameron to resign as prime minister, will push his successor Theresa May to call one sooner. May has said she has no need to do so.
McDonnell said that under a Labour government, Britain would take a much more active role in protecting and developing industries such as steel production, which is under threat from high energy costs and Chinese oversupply.
“You need an interventionist government that’s working with the private sector … hand in hand, looking at where investment is needed,” he told ITV.
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