1 Jun 2024

‘If Labour wins, you better start saving now’ says Science Minister

Europe Editor and Presenter

Ten days into the general election campaign, it was a day of battle buses, with Labour, Conservatives and Reform all launching theirs.

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer chose opposite ends of the country to set out their opposing visions for jobs and growth.

We spoke to the Science and Innovation Minister Andrew Griffith and we began by asking why Rishi Sunak had been to so many seats the Tories already hold – sometimes with big majorities – but Labour’s campaign was seemingly showing far greater ambition.

Andrew Griffith: The prime minister’s been enormously active. It’s been an energetic campaign. He’s criss crossed all over the country. Of course, as part of that, he’ll have been visiting Conservative colleagues as well as other areas. The job of work for all parties at this election, in the campaign, is to persuade people to come out and vote. We know it’s been a difficult few years for the country dealing with the unprecedented global pandemic, the geopolitical situations we’re dealing with in different places around the world. So naturally enough, the prime minister wants to speak to all sorts of voters, and that does include people who voted Conservative for the first time in 2019.

Matt Frei: But you’ve had actually quite a good week, haven’t you? Labour’s had quite a tricky week. And yet there’s an opinion poll in The Observer that has you 2% down, and it’s the best result for Labour since the disastrous days of Liz Truss. And this is after a good week in the campaign for you. So things aren’t working out, are they?

Andrew Griffith: No, I think anyone, in any campaign, you work for every vote. Candidates up and down the country will be doing that, taking their message to voters. Importantly, reminding people what’s at stake in this election. There are only two real candidates, much as though we admire the smaller parties, there’s only two candidates to be the prime minister, Rishi Sunak or Sir Keir Starmer. We haven’t heard that much about his plan. We are all looking forward to the debates this coming week and subsequently, because there is real jeopardy, in my view obviously, for the British people in the sort of fact we don’t know what they really stand for. We do know this week that when Angela Rayner says she wants something, that’s exactly what happens. So whether it’s Diane Abbott standing for parliament, or whether it’s French-style union laws.

Matt Frei: The other thing that’s happened, an email has gone out from Tory party headquarters basically asking for more money. But you’re not even at the end of the second week of the campaign.

Andrew Griffith: Well, of course, campaigns cost money. But when I talk to my colleagues up and down the country, I see what the prime minister and the party are doing. The key thing for us all at this point in the campaign is to be really getting that message across, exposing the jeopardy of what you get with Labour. Our core message about if you think Labour are going to win, you better start saving now, because one way or another that’s going to cost you. My big hope is that over the course of this campaign, people can understand the real choice that they face between carrying on with a government that’s got a plan. It’s been through difficult times, but we’ve got a plan, and that plan is starting to work.

Matt Frei: But people know your plan and they’ve been living with a Tory government for 14 years, and according to the opinion polls, they seem to have decided that they’ve had enough. And whatever you say now, they’re just not listening or whatever proposal you come up with is a bit like chucking spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks.

Andrew Griffith: We’ve had to make tough, difficult decisions over the last few years. The whole British people have had to make sacrifices because of that global pandemic and the war in Ukraine. It’s not easy and we understand that. But an election is about the choice going forward. Do you stick with the government that’s got a plan versus rolling the dice, taking that gamble, not knowing how that’s going to get paid for, but it could hit you and your family.

Matt Frei: Just finally and briefly, what is the one thing, the one policy, that you think can persuade people who are having their doubts to vote yet again for a Tory government?

Andrew Griffith: I’ll give you one. Ultimately, it is a strong economy, underpinned by the tough decisions we’ve had to make, that powers our public services, that gives jobs to current and future generations, that allows us to continue to have a high standard of living and prosperity.

Matt Frei: And one other thing I’m curious about, you could argue that your biggest achievement over the last 14 years was Brexit. You haven’t mentioned Brexit once.

Andrew Griffith: With respect, you can choose your one thing. You asked me to choose one thing, and I chose the economy because it’s the economy that powers people’s opportunities. It’s the economy that allows us to continue to afford high quality public services.