Posts Tagged ‘Business’

Ten hard truths for Labour

27/07/2015, 06:16:26 PM

Following Tristram Hunt’s call for “a summer of hard truths” Labour Uncut is running a short series laying them out. Here’s Kevin Meagher with his top ten.

1. Fundraising must be the next leader’s top priority. The party is broke and its funding base in the affiliated trade unions looks increasingly precarious. Miliband hated raising money and avoided doing so. The next leader will find it occupies more of their time than anything else. That’s if they’re serious about running a political party.

2. Manage effectively. No-one in politics can line-manage. They really can’t. Decisions are subject to constant change because competing courtiers love sticking their oar in. And no-one takes responsibility for things because no-one wants to be left holding a problem when the music stops. (That’s why the “Edstone” passed through ten planning meetings without anyone pointing out how mental it was). And because virtually no-one in politics has ever worked anywhere else, they think this dysfunctional way of operating is normal. Blair, Brown and Miliband were all hopeless managers in their own ways. The next leader needs to learn to delegate and performance-manage his or her team. Let the general-secretary run the party machine and if they’re crap, sack them. Oh, and stop hiring inexperienced kids for important roles that they then guff up. Radical idea: advertise key jobs and hire the best applicants.

3. Avoid expensive US consultants. The hero worship of US politics by seemingly everyone who works for the party is actually closer to a creepy infatuation. Its staggering no-one on the NEC had the decency to demand that “Obama guru” David Axelrod repay the £300,000 he was paid for contributing nothing of value to the election campaign he was supposed to be masterminding. It could have funded another dozen organisers on the ground. (Members should remember this and take it out on the dozy NEC reps responsible for agreeing to hire him). For future reference, the party has enough talent and experience to run its own campaigns and doesn’t need any more Yank snake oil salesmen. (more…)

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Goodbye Lord Sugar. It’s time for a normal relationship between Labour and business

14/05/2015, 08:30:16 PM

by Dan Cooke

It’s a sure sign you’re in a bad way when someone as pugnacious as Lord Sugar takes care to fire you gently, stressing that they don’t want to “stick in the boot”.

In truth, it is the very blandness of Sugar’s announcement of his resignation from the Labour party that is most damning. Sugar apparently did not even feel the need to explain what were Labour’s “negative business policies and general anti-enterprise concepts” that concerned him, or how these compared with policies of Gordon Brown which he praised.  He probably thought he did not need to because the perception that the Labour party is now “anti-business” has become so wide and deep that, for many, it requires no explanation.

Whether it is actually justified or not, this is a totally untenable impression for a mainstream political party to have created in a modern capitalist society. When too many swing voters decided that a vote for the Conservatives was a vote for a strong economy, the perception that companies on which millions rely for their livelihoods were behind the Tories, reflected in high-profile open letter campaigns, will have been a major contributing factor.  It is quite plausible that this impression was even more important than the debate about the causes and consequences of the deficit, on which the party has agonised incomparably more.

How has this happened? Labour, after all, is not the party that wants to put at risk access for British businesses to the single market in Europe and the network of EU-negotiated free trade agreements outside Europe. Labour is not the party that hinders businesses obtaining crucial work permits for skilled workers because of an arbitrary and undeliverable immigration cap. And Labour is not the party that has put ideology ahead of commercial logic with unworkable schemes like the widely mocked “shares for rights” proposal.


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Labour used to know how to win elections. We need to re-learn. Fast.

09/05/2015, 04:01:27 PM

by Ian Moss

We, who came into the Labour party in the late 80s and early 90s thought we had built an invincible election fighting machine – after laying the foundations to get Labour back in contention and become an electoral force again the New Labour project embraced the changes in society and was the only party that looked in touch with modern Britain.

In reality, when we look back in 2020 the last 41 years of our endeavours will have seen only 13 years of Labour government. Labour is back into its natural state – as a party of opposition. The only virtue to make of letting the Miliband leaderships run its course to the election is to say that the left had another go, and again it failed. We have tried this plan enough in my lifetime now and it needs to stop.

Cameron has now got the opportunity to be PM for as many years as leader as Blair was, although I suspect he will happily retire after 2 or 3 years. Think about that. Blair, the all-conquering, was PM for 10 years. Cameron could do the same, happily, given this election result.

But he won’t find it easy. The majority is thin and his party will only stay becalmed for a while before its inevitable tensions start showing – over Europe and social liberalism – and he’s not a man noted for knuckling down to the hard business of government or has the soft skills of wooing back benchers. His style of party management means he could be in for a rough ride.

Labour has the power in opposition given this result, to make life difficult for the government, but only if it joins forces with exactly the political groupings that the public were frightened it would. If Labour spends the next 5 years voting down measures in alliance with the Greens and SNP it should prepare itself for a long time in opposition.

The Labour party should not see the way out of this result as building a coalition of Green voters, left wing Liberal Democrats and various fringe campaign groups. The only connection to the non-metropolitan world they have is as they drive through it on camping holidays. Labour does not need to appeal to the drivers of motor-homes; it needs to appeal to the car mechanics that fix them.

The Labour party core vote is urban and liberal. It also needs to be suburban and blue collar. People who run small businesses, work in trades and, yes, drive white vans. Empathy with their issues was notably absent from the team around Miliband which was full of the types of people who spent their Saturdays in Fabian Conferences. Real people don’t spend their weekends in seminars. Labour need to appeal to aspirational and entrepreneurial voters.


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Labour is the party for small businesses

01/05/2015, 05:58:41 PM

by Michael Taylor

Given I’ve got a business background and that I’ve campaigned with lots of businesses on regional infrastructure issues, it’s been really emboldening in his general election campaign to take Labour’s message that we are on the side of small business and that our entrepreneurs deserve better.

My dad was a milkman who became self-employed in 1979 and voted Thatcher. Once. That idea that you take control of a part of your life, take on the new challenges of running a business and therefore become part of the ruling class business elite is so outdated and plays counter to the experience of so many small business owners and self-employed contractors. That’s why the shambolic Tory letter in the Telegraph seemed such an outdated and hollow stunt.

As a parliamentary candidate in a Greater Manchester seat the conversation is increasingly about a system that’s stacked in favour of the powerful. Nowhere has this been as apparent in how small companies have been shafted under this government. Especially when it comes to the important commitment to protect small companies against exploitation from bullying behavior from big corporates.

This idea of a monolithic “business community” which only cares about what’s good for business with dog whistle demands for the cutting of red tape bears no relation to how people live their lives.


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Labour’s response to the Tories’ business letter has been an epic act of political self-harm

01/04/2015, 08:22:37 PM

by Atul Hatwal

When the history of the 2015 general election is written, the Tories’ business letter in the Telegraph will be seen as a pivotal moment. Pivotal because of what it presaged for the potency of a key Tory line of attack in the campaign and Labour’s inability to mount a convincing response.

For the Tories, the letter is not just a one-off story but part of a longer, sustained offensive that will build over the coming days and weeks. More business leaders will have been lined up to intervene to kick the story on, reheat it if it cools and bulldoze the central Tory message on Labour and the economy, into the public consciousness.

How do I know? Because I have a memory which stretches back to the 2010 campaign, something that Ed Miliband’s strategists evidently lack.

In 2010, the single most damaging intervention in the campaign was the letter from business leaders opposing Labour’s National Insurance tax rise. The manner in which more and more business signatories were rolled out by the Tories dominated days of coverage and shattered Labour’s fragile reputation for economic competence.

To paraphrase Tony Blair, the public might not cherish these business leaders as national treasures but they do believe that Britain’s CEOs know more about creating jobs and wealth than politicians.

In the end there were over 500 signatories of the 2010 letter running businesses that employed over 1m people, with all sectors and ethnicities represented.

Tuesday’s letter in the Telegraph is just the start.

Damaging as the Tory offensive is though, perhaps the worst aspect of the exchange between the parties has been Labour’s response.

On Twitter, Labour activists, candidates and Labour supporting journalists engaged in an epic, collective act of political self-harm as the story broke.


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We shouldn’t be surprised the Tories ‘phone a business friend’ but the timing shows they’re desperate

01/04/2015, 01:57:50 PM

There’s an air of inevitability about the publication of a letter from business leaders warning against a Labour government in today’s Daily Telegraph.

The Tories can always count on a swathe of blue chip executives to back their cause. (Presumably self-interest plays a part too, as the signatories are classic targets of Labour’s 50p top rate and the mansion tax).

There is is no argument that letters like this work. They are simple to put together, get broadcast follow-up and help frame the day’s coverage. They matter because the grand fromages of the business world represent an important barometer of credibility for any party.

Yet as a tactic, the business leader round-robin was more counter-intuitive – and seemed more effective – when Labour did it in previous elections.

And the timing of today’s letter feels like a reactive move by the Tories – as though party strategists had this pencilled-in for later in the campaign.

To have real purchase, publishing a list of business endorsers nearer to polling day would surely be more effective; showing momentum behind the Tory campaign and contrasting that with Labour’s failure to convince business about its fitness to govern.

Throwing it in during the first week feels like the waste of a valuable asset. Like when contestants on ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ phone a friend on one of the easy questions.

As ever in politics, when someone does something unexpected, it’s because they are rattled.

Could it be that Labour’s efforts this week to burnish their business credentials, contrasting the Tories’ pledge of an in/out referendum on the EU with Labour’s solid, if unfashionable, pro-European-ness, have spooked Tory high command?

After all, this is one of the few areas where the Tories “competence versus chaos” line reverses in Labour’s favour.

As David Cameron limbers up for the seven-way leaders’ debate, (after his uncertain performance against Paxman) he needs to project calm, statesmanlike competence. To show that he is a safe bet.

Does he need to wheel out his pin-striped pals this early in the campaign to get that message across?

Perhaps he does.

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It is time to put some humanity back in the Treasury

31/03/2015, 03:20:44 PM

by Rajesh Agrawal

It is wrong for commentators to lazily blame Labour for the economic downturn and credit the Tories with the recovery.

The truth is, the recession wasn’t caused by Labour. It was the result of a serious collapse in the global banking system.

After five years of Conservative spin you might be forgiven for forgetting that Labour’s economic record in power was actually one of remarkable stability and sustained growth for the ten years before the banking crash. It was also a time when the vast majority of ordinary people felt the benefits of economic prosperity.

Far from irresponsible spending, Labour biggest deficit before the crash was 3.3% of GDP. Osborne’s currently stands at 4.6%.

In fact, Labour successful and responsible economic management was arguably the single biggest reason the Conservatives found it so difficult to win back power in 2001, 2005 and a majority in 2010.

By comparison, Osborne’s economic record is hardly a shining success story he claims.

The current recovery is the slowest economic recovery in over a hundred years. It is also an unbalanced recovery with huge areas of the UK and millions of ordinary people yet to feel the benefits, while the gap between rich and poor gets ever wider.


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Ed Miliband is more Syriza than serious. The attack on Boots will backfire

02/02/2015, 07:49:43 PM

by Samuel Dale

Today the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition Ed Miliband, prospective Chancellor Ed Balls and future minister Chuka Umunna were tearing shreds out of well-known chemist, Boots.

With less than 100 days to a general election Labour is not promoting a new policy to boost growth, there are no proposals to boost pensions or housing (or, heaven forbid, cut the deficit) so instead the party returns to its old favourite: business bashing.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph Alliance Boots executive chairman Stefano Pessina said a Miliband Government would be a “catastrophe” for Britain.

Pessina didn’t go into policy detail but made it very clear that he thought Miliband would be a Hollande-style disaster.

It’s hardly a surprise that major businesses are criticising a party that is planning to raise corporation and income tax, impose price controls, tax tobacco firms, fund managers, pensions, payday lenders and banks while increasing the regulation of energy firms, railways, financial services and employment law.

Meanwhile, the Tories want to cut taxes across the board and attract as much business to Britain as possible.

It is emphatically not a surprise to see a business leader speaking out, Ed Miliband has done everything he can to bait them.

He has made no olive branch to recognise business’ role as job creators or tried to attract more foreign companies and investment to the UK.

Instead of responding to Pessina with a list of pro-business policies, Labour has none. It has no choice but to go on the counter-attack.


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The fightback starts now: Pro-business Labour is starting to make its voice heard

19/01/2015, 10:29:01 AM

by Samuel Dale

It was an absolute delight to read the Fabian Society’s new research on paper on Labour’s woeful relationship with the private sector. It can be summed up in one damaging quote: “Business doesn’t trust Labour”.

As I have argued on this site, Labour has a horrific relationship with British business that could cost the party dearly this May.

The Fabian report, In it Together, authored by Ed Wallis and Robert Tinker and published on Friday, seeks to redefine Labour’s relationship with business.

It wants the party to make a “big, open and comprehensive offer “ and create a Charter for Business.

“Profit and social purpose are not only compatible objectives but the conditions of a flourishing economy and a healthy society,” says the Charter’s proposed vision. “Public health, environmental sustainability and strong local communities are integral to long-term business success, and cannot be delivered by government alone but by using partnerships between business and government.”

The Charter contains ideas such as not creating punitive and shock-value regulation, setting long-term targets beyond electoral cycles (something business cries out for again and again because how can you expect business to think long-term when politicians don’t?) and offering tax breaks to companies who contribute positive environmental and social change.


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How a business backlash could cost Miliband the election

19/12/2014, 11:06:05 AM

by Samuel Dale

One of the reasons Labour won in 1997 was the prawn cocktail offensive.

Labour ministers launched a three year schmoozathon with the City and business leaders.

It worked. When the Tories brought out their New Labour, New Danger fear campaign it had no bite.

Business leaders had listened to New Labour and would give them a chance.

The Tories couldn’t build a coalition of business leaders to make dire warnings about Labour as they had done in past elections.

Ed Miliband’s Labour party has undergone no sustained prawn cocktail offensive.

Instead it is at open war with business promising a waterfall of new taxes and regulations with no upside. It’s all stick and no carrot.

Tobocco firms, energy companies, rail operators, recruiters, hedge funds, banks, Sports Direct and pension companies are all in Labour cross-hairs to name but a few.

There are two serious consequences to the relentless attack on companies. Both point to serious political naïvety.

Firstly, when the Tories try their scare tactics next year they will find a rush of business leaders to join the cause. It will add bite to the attacks and damage Labour.

The best example is the Scottish referendum campaign when big businesses and employers made decisive interventions in the final few weeks.

Firms promised re-locations, job losses and market chaos. Voters were scared.


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