Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has invited 200 businesspeople to join him in a “partnership” as part of his bid to make Labour the “party of business.” In a forum in Liverpool, Starmer promised stability and an end to the “chopping and changing” seen in recent Conservative governments. This move marks a sharp U-turn from his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn’s approach. Starmer’s efforts have been supported by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s strained relationship with the private sector. A poll of 1,000 senior businesspeople conducted in September found that 45% believed a Labour government would be best for business, compared to 32% supporting the Tories. The number of companies and executives paying to attend or set up stalls in Labour’s exhibition hall was also significantly higher than those at the recent Tory conference.
Labour’s advantage in winning business support has been built on a year of meetings with company executives and industry bodies. Labour’s comparatively small policy teams have allowed companies to influence the party’s policies. At a private dinner in Liverpool, a former Labour adviser told corporate lobbyists that there would be times when the party needed “off the shelf” policies quickly, presenting an opportunity for companies. Labour has also been contacting companies to gather detailed input on specific areas such as skills and training.
However, Labour’s embrace of business has faced scrutiny. Consumer champion Martin Lewis expressed shock that a buy-now-pay-later company was able to sponsor a fringe event at the conference and argue against planned regulation. Shadow Business Secretary Rachel Reeves emphasized that sponsoring an event does not mean the party agrees with a company’s public policy preferences.
Labour’s focus on stability has also garnered support from the business community. The party’s stance on tax cuts has not caused concern, as stability is considered more important. Issues such as net-zero policies, Labour’s stance on deregulation, and planning are of greater significance to companies.
Despite these efforts, there remains some skepticism within the private sector towards Labour. Some feel that the party is still associated with more left-wing figures such as Angela Rayner and that it is not the New Labour of former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Concerns have been raised about what Labour might do one year after the election.
Overall, Sir Keir Starmer’s efforts to position Labour as the “party of business” are gaining traction, with more businesspeople expressing support for the party compared to the Conservatives. Labour’s engagement with companies and its focus on stability have been key factors in winning over business support. However, some skepticism remains within the private sector, and concerns about the party’s direction persist.
More detail via Financial Times News here… ( Image via Financial Times News )