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Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Labour accused of being anti-business

Notwithstanding Ed Ball's embarrassing gaffe of failing to name the businessman who has been advising Labour, the official opposition's problems with the business sector are starting to get serious for Ed. Miliband.

The Times reports one of Gordon Brown's former Ministers has warned that the anti-business “mood music” from Labour risks deterring overseas investors from Britain. As the paper illustrates, the criticism is echoed by a long list of business people:

Lord Jones of Birmingham, who served as trade minister under Mr Brown, said that he had not yet heard Ed Miliband utter “one word about why it’s good to make profit in Britain”.

It came as a series of business figures raised concerns about Labour’s view of the corporate world after its bust-up with the billionaire boss of Boots.

They questioned Mr Miliband’s treatment of Stefano Pessina, who declared over the weekend that a Labour government would be “catastrophic”. The Labour leader slapped down the Monaco-based businessman by accusing him of avoiding tax.

Brent Hoberman, the founder of Lastminute.com, accused Labour of trying to “intimidate people into not voicing their opinion”. He said that France had shown that anti-business rhetoric could force entrepreneurs overseas.

“We should be concerned about the opinions of those who invest in the UK,” he said. “Whether they are living here or not, they are important in a global economy.

“What we’ve seen in France is that anti-business rhetoric is more damaging than the policies — that entrepreneurial success was somehow not a worthy aspiration.

“I think there are elements of the Labour party that should think more about the impact of their rhetoric on the business world, and the impact on the international view of investing in the UK . . . There’s a resentment towards people who work hard to create wealth for those around them.” 

His comments were echoed by Irvine Sellar, the property magnate who co-developed The Shard. Mr Sellar said: “Where the chairman of Boots bases himself is his concern. He has done a good job at Boots and the company generates a huge amount of tax revenue for this country.”

Simon Woodroffe, the Yo Sushi founder who was a supporter of the last Labour government, said: “What we should be doing is creating a fair playing field to allow business to flourish. I thought Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were a good management team. What I don’t hear from Labour now is a good understanding of business and that scares me.” 

Richard Caring, the restaurant tycoon and a former Labour donor who now supports the Tories, said that Labour was trying to win “cheap votes” by attacking business.

“When you look back at Blair when I was a Labour supporter, he was very clear on being supportive of business and creating business. It wasn’t so much about trying to gain a cheap vote by trying to hit people that appear to be successful,” he added.

Jacqueline Gold, chief executive of Ann Summers, Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, Stuart Rose, the former Marks & Spencer boss and Tory peer, and Sir Ian Cheshire, the former B&Q chief, have also raised concerns.

This is one trend Labour are going to have to reverse if they are to regain any reputation for economic competence.
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