Business leaders have given a cautious reaction to Jeremy Corbyn’s election as the new leader of the Labour Party given his well-documented stance on nationalisation and higher taxes.
John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses across the UK want a strong, effective opposition, no matter what the political colour government of the day. We will be looking for the opposition to take a pragmatic and practical approach to business recognising that wealth creation is the necessary prerequisite for the delivery of any political objectives.
:The role of business and economic growth in British society must be front and centre as the new Labour leadership develops its policy priorities.”
He said British businesses were the engines of job creation and economic growth and urged Corbyn to recognise this if he wanted to achieve lasting results and change.
“We look forward to beginning a dialogue with the new leader of the opposition and his team in the weeks ahead. Firms will be encouraged by recent statements favouring much-needed investment in the UK’s inadequate infrastructure and skills,” he added.
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Simon Walker, director general at the Institute of Directors, also expressed some caution: “The IoD congratulates Jeremy Corbyn. It is no secret that business has not always seen eye-to-eye with the new leader of the opposition. From renationalising the railways, to raising taxes on businesses and increasing government spending, Corbyn has proposed some policies in the leadership campaign that we believe would undermine our open and competitive economy.
“Politicians and business leaders are never in perfect agreement on how the economy should be managed, irrespective of who is in government, and who in opposition. We will continue to engage with Labour honestly and directly on behalf our members, who represent businesses large and small across the UK, and hold a variety of political views.”
Walker took some hope with the vision outlined by Corbyn in “The Economy in 2020” when he said that wealth creation is a good thing.
“We agree, and hope to work with him on the big economic challenges the UK faces, such as improving the productivity and skills of the workforce. There are important ongoing debates on state investment in infrastructure, how to tackle examples of excessive pay at big companies, and how to increase diversity in senior management,” Walker said.
“Businesses will make their case sincerely on these issues, and we very much hope the Labour party will be prepared to listen.”
Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at RICS, was slightly more positive. He said: “RICS welcomes the election of Jeremy Corbyn bringing to an end the uncertainty that followed Ed Miliband’s resignation. Corbyn’s election shows how many Labour members and voters have an alternative vision for Britain,” he said.
“He has raised some challenging but principled issues around the expansion of Right to Buy to private landlords; as well as providing a voice for the widely-felt dissatisfaction of privatisation in our rail sector. There is undoubtedly opportunity in his agenda around infrastructure and public spending to get Britain building, and we look forward to sitting round the table and discussing this further. “
Blackburn added: “With property, planning and development more central to Britain’s economic future than at any time before, stability and a clear vision for this sector will be crucial to securing the growth, prosperity and equity of this country for the next generation. This is an opportunity as well to carry on the good work done on housing, planning and infrastructure before the election, like the Lyons Review. As leader of the opposition it is important that he makes a strong start and focuses on the parliamentary scrutiny of the government’s agenda, not least the Housing and City Devolution Bills.”
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