Meet Johnathon Reynolds – Labour's new shadow trade and business secretary

Wed 6 Sept 2023
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

Picture: Official Parliament portrait.

Meet the man who could be the international trade minister in a potential Labour government.

In Sir Keir Starmer’s recent shadow cabinet reshuffle, former shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds was given the combined business and trade brief to mirror Rishi Sunak’s cabinet reshuffle earlier this year, when Kemi Badenoch became the secretary of state for business and trade.

Former shadow trade minister Nick Thomas-Symonds stays in the Labour cabinet as a shadow minister without portfolio.

Background

An experienced political operator with extensive front bench experience, Reynolds brings a number of key skills to the job.

Born in Houghton-le-Spring in the North East of England to a working class family, Reynolds graduated from the University of Manchester and worked as a solicitor before entering politics.

After a stint in local government, Reynolds worked for former MP James Purnell before succeeding him as the representative for the Manchester-area seat of Stalybridge and Hyde in the 2010 general election.

Experience

Reynolds has served in front bench roles for every Labour leader since Ed Miliband.

First taking on a number of junior roles under Miliband, he offered to resign upon Jeremy Corbyn taking over as party leader.

He was persuaded to stay and took on the rail portfolio and, after resigning and spending a brief time on the back benches, Reynolds returned to take the economy and City of London portfolios on Corbyn’s front bench.

He held onto the City role until moving to the work and pensions brief shortly after Starmer became leader, later being shuffled to the business role in 2021.

Trade

Reynolds has made a number of statements and commitments on trade.

Notably, he has been an advocate for a UK industrial strategy and was not shy about saying that past governments, both Labour and Conservative, had not come up with a joined-up approach for the UK economy.

In his role as shadow business secretary, he launched Labour’s industrial strategy on 26 September 2022. Under the plans, there would be an Industrial Strategy Council that would report back on the four ‘missions’ of the policy:

  • Delivering clean power by 2030
  • Harnessing data for public good
  • Caring for the future
  • Building a resilient economy

Reynolds highlighted common issues facing companies – such as supply chain shocks and a need for skilled workers – as some of the problems the strategy would tackle.

Financial services

During his time as a Labour’s shadow city minister, he was described as “not your typical Corbynista” in his dealings with the square mile and an important representative for the party in a place where the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, was not typically welcomed.

He was noticeably critical of Brexit’s impact on financial services, calling attention to some of the gaps left by post-Brexit legislation that would hit various industries.

In November 2022, he was awarded Freedom of the City by the City of London Corporation in recognition of his work for the square mile and for UK businesses as a whole.

Trains, ships and automobiles

During his stint as rails shadow minister, he backed the nationalisation of the UK’s railways. He also called attention to a “chronic underinvestment in infrastructure in the regions outside London” that would stunt the growth of UK business outside of the South East of England.

In a debate on the automotive industry this past July, he said the UK would “never be able to match the sheer fiscal firepower of the US Inflation Reduction Act” but said that the UK still had advantages in other areas, such as research and development.

He also signed a Parliamentary early day motion criticising DP World and P&O Ferries for their treatment of workers.

Seat

Although his seat has been held by Labour since 1945, in the 2019 General Election, his majority shrunk to less than 3,000 votes, his personal lowest since he was first elected.

Britain Predicts, a website run jointly by the New Statesman and polling aggregator Britain Elections, currently projects that Reynolds will retain his seat comfortably at the next election.

He is a Sunderland AFC supporter and a member of the Labour Party’s Christian group.