18 Jul 2012

Labour's call to business: "Please work with us"

Labour issued a rallying call to corporate Britain last night, calling for a drive to build up other sectors outside financial services

Speaking at the summer Labour Business Reception last night, leader of the opposition Ed Miliband said his message to business was “please, work with us.”

Miliband addressed a packed room of business leaders at Chartered Accountants’ Hall in the City. He was attempting to rebuild links between the party and a business community which has become broadly disillusioned with Labour, sending corproate donations to the lowest levels seen in years.

“We can’t go back to a world where there is one pro-business party and one anti-business party. Equally, we can’t have three anti-business parties," Miliband told the audience.

Please don't make this the end of your engagement with the Labour Party

Ed Miliband

"So my real message tonight is please, work with us. Please don’t make tonight the end of your engagement with the Labour Party. We won’t build the party we want unless we work with you.

“There’s no way we can create the society we want without working with business.”

Speaking he said, as “hopefully the next government”, Miliband called for a wider focus on different parts of the business community outside the Square Mile. “Of course financial services matter,” he said. “But we’ve got to celebrate other parts of business.

“We need to celebrate the businesses that reflect the value of the country.”

He said this process should begin with education, urging a “really different vocational system”, to make sure those who were less academic did not lose out.

Other  Labour MPs echoed the calls to work with business, with shadow chancellor Ed Balls sounding a conciliatory note over the coalition government's growth strategy. The former City minister reiterated calls for business to re-engage with the party. He said there was “no way forward for our country” without a credible deficit reduction plan, but warned that a deficit reduction plan was “not in itself enough going to secure our future as an economy.”

As part of the party’s ongoing attempts to woo corporate Britain, Labour also announced yesterday a new drive to train business people to become candidates for either Westminster elections or local councils. The opposition party promised mentoring for those wanted to make the move from business into politics.

In a further attempt to encourage the corporate community, potential applicants do not even have to be Labour members to apply to the “special stream” of the party’s future candidates programme - though will be expected to “share Labour values.”

“We are going through very difficult times,” Miliband told the audience last night. “The question is what to do about it. We’ve got to rebuild our economy in a very different way in the future.

"We’ve got to challenge the way we do things in this country.”


Helen Roxburgh