Keir Starmer hopes to entice global finance leaders in Davos on Thursday by ensuring them Britain “will be open for business” under a future Labour government.
With Rishi Sunak declining to attend this year’s World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the Labour leader will arguably be the most high-profile UK politician attending.
He will be joined by Rachel Reeves,the shadow chancellor, in a bid to encourage business leaders and international figures to envision a Britain under his leadership.
The duo will hope to reassure finance bosses they will pull in more foreign investment, particularly in the “green” industries of the future.
During the day of talks, they will promote Labour’s green prosperity plan to decarbonise the economy, boost energy security and ensure Britain leads in future green industries. Starmer’s focus on the plan may hearten some Labour figures, who want to pressure his office into ensuring green policies are at the heart of his manifesto.
Ahead of the visit, Reeves said: “With Labour in government, Britain will be open for business. We have the ambition and the practical ideas to have our country lead on the global stage again, especially in those green industries of the future that are so vital for our energy security.
“We will restore economic growth to the UK, improving living standards and creating jobs, and bring global investors back to drive our economy forwards – all built on the rock of economic stability and certainty.
“Labour will work in partnership with business to boost investment in the UK economy, to make sure the jobs of the future are in the UK, and to ensure the UK is a world leader in the climate transition.”
Neither Sunak nor Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, will attend the exclusive gathering, with the prime minister instead delivering a short speech on levelling up.
The trade secretary, Kemi Badenoch, and the business secretary, Grant Shapps, will represent the government instead, rubbing shoulders with their old boss, Boris Johnson.
Starmer and Reeves will be the first Labour leaders to attend the summit since John McDonnell made a surprise visit as shadow chancellor in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet in 2018.
McDonnell told media before his debut appearance that he had travelled to the summit to deliver some home truths, including the fact that those in attendance were held in contempt by ordinary voters.
This visit will highlight how much Labour has changed under Starmer’s leadership, further distancing the party from claims that it is “anti-business”.
Johnson, like his former opposite number Starmer, is on a mission to turn his own image around after ordering his ministers to avoid attending Davos. He described it as an elitist event after winning a huge majority in 2019, in order to reaffirm his party’s position among working-class voters.
The former prime minister has been on his own networking mission since leaving No 10, having attended Cop27 and spending time on the after-dinner speech circuit.
Labour’s fresh business drive comes after reports revealed donations to the party jumped by nearly a quarter to £4.7m, boosted by spending from unions and individual donors.
A party spokesperson said donors were “coming back to Labour because they can see we are a changed party that is serious about getting into government and building a fairer, greener, more dynamic Britain”.