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New polling confirms Labour is now the party of business

As the party’s conference begins, research shared exclusively with New Statesman Spotlight shows industry prefers Labour to the Tories.

By Zoë Grünewald

The Conservatives are no longer the preferred party of business, polling by MHP/Savanta shared today (8 October) with New Statesman Spotlight has found.

When business leaders were asked who is “best for business”, 45 per cent chose a future Labour government led by Keir Starmer, compared to just 32 per cent who opted for the Conservatives. The findings demonstrate that the concerted effort of Starmer and the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, to woo industry leaders is paying off, as businesses are now reporting more confidence in the party and its leaders than in their Conservative counterparts.

Labour’s efforts to win over the private sector have been described as the “prawn cocktail offensive 2.0″, a reference to attempts under New Labour to win the support of Britain’s financial sector. Over the past two years, Starmer, Reeves and other shadow cabinet ministers have met businesses around the country to gain their support and explain how a Labour government would be good for business.

The poll reveals the extent of their success, with Labour being consistently favoured by businesses polled nationwide. Confidence in Labour is particularly high among small business owners. Forty-four per cent of SMEs say Labour is “best”, compared with 29 per cent saying the same of the Conservatives.

Businesses also prefer the leadership of Starmer over Rishi Sunak, as Starmer takes a small but significant three-point lead for confidence from businesses, beating Sunak by 38 per cent to 35. This will be a blow to the Prime Minister, who has long positioned himself as a technocratic friend to industry. Reeves also holds a small lead over her counterpart Jeremy Hunt, with 29 to 27 per cent.

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Labour is likely to be bolstered by today’s findings against the backdrop of the party’s annual conference, which started in Liverpool today. The conference has already been hailed as a success for Labour’s “party of business” campaign, as more than 300 CEOs and chairs of businesses are expected to attend, beating the numbers seen under Tony Blair’s government. Business sponsorship for the event has also reportedly increased from £200,000 last year to £500,000, and 43 business groups have bought exhibition space at the conference, up from sixteen last year and far more than at the Conservative Party conference only a week ago.

Josh Kaile, associate director at MHP Group and a former Labour adviser, said: “After a difficult few years for Labour, doors are finally being opened to them, and the hard work to convince people to vote for a Labour government really kicks in now. With these latest insights from MHP/Savanta, it turns out that Labour’s reformed ‘smoked salmon and scrambled eggs offensive’ is convincing many that the party really is good for business.”

[Read more: Jonathan Reynolds: “Labour governments shouldn’t be judged by how much they spend”]

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