So the general election campaign is in full swing and there are now 34 days to go to polling day. With my shadow business secretary hat on, here are some thoughts on the business debate…
The first part of the first week of the campaign has been dominated by the economy and business; the second half by the leaders’ debates.
On the business front, we launched the Labour Party’s Business Manifesto at Bloomberg underlining the importance we attach to our relationship with business – Ed Balls and I then took the business manifesto on the road this week. On the Conservative side, they published their letter of business supporters including some donors and Conservative peers but also others, in the Conservative supporting Daily Telegraph newspaper.
It goes without saying that I believe a Labour victory is in the best economic interests of the country and there are plenty of Labour policies in our manifesto that business welcomes.
The EEF has praised our announcements on technical and vocational training (Ed talked about them in his excellent performance in the leaders’ debate last night); the CBI supports the independent infrastructure commission we will establish; the British Chambers of Commerce facilitated a consultation for us with their members on finance; and, we’re the only party committed to setting up the Small Business Administration the Federation of Small Businesses has campaign for.
Above all, though, most businesses appreciate our pledge to maintain the UK’s membership of the EU – this is crucial.
But, whatever the result of the election, Britain will only thrive and our economy will only become stronger on a sustainable basis if the country comes together, whoever wins. That’s what we have to do.
The signatories of the Conservative letter are entitled to their views, of course, and a number are – as I said – known Conservative donors, supporters and peers, but businesses will need to work with whatever party forms a Government because there has to be a partnership, at the end of the day, between government and business.
Many business people are keen to contribute to the policy debate during elections – which is vital – but they also bemoan the overly partisan and tribal nature of our politics which stands in the way of building the political consensus they seek – they tell me party politics too often stands in the way of them making long term investment decisions. This is something for the signatories of the Conservative letter to reflect on.
Those who complain about party politics are right to do so because when we manage to put the party politics to one side, progress can be made. One of the reasons I brought Small Business Saturday to the UK was to create a shared campaign to promote the brilliance of our business, which wasn’t party political. I’m pleased all political parties and lots of business organisations got behind it. It has been a huge success, the largest celebration of business in the UK and it has helped put £1bn pounds into the tills of smaller firms since the coalition of people who got it going established it in 2013.
So when all the heat and light of the election campaign passes, the bottom line is that a Labour government will work in partnership with businesses, large and small, across the country and internationally – we will do so for the sake of our long term economic growth and productivity. British business tells me they want to do the same.
This post originally appeared on Chuka Umunna’s Facebook page.