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Interview: Chuka Umunna and Toby Perkins make a Labour Party pitch for the votes of business leaders

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We’ve been bringing you the business pitches from all of the major political parties ahead of the UK general election on 7 May, and next in line is Labour – the party that surrendered power to the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition in 2010.

In separate interviews with shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna and shadow minister for small business Toby Perkins, Real Business gained an insight into what you could expect as a business leader under Labour rule.

Umunna hoped that the creation of a specific business mini-manifesto demonstrated how important the party believes the relationship between government and business is. “We’re aiming to reform the economy so it is fairer, and we are only going to be able do that by working in partnership with business,” he added.

Labour has proposed a number of changes if it comes into power, dominated by re-introducing the 50p top rate of income tax for earnings over £150,000; creating a tax on bankers’ bonuses; cutting, and then freezing, business rates; and making sure there are no increases in VAT or National Insurance contributions.

Observing the last five years, Umunna believes business owners have been “clobbered” by hikes in business rates. Understanding that there needs to be more of a focus on knowing what it is like for entrepreneurs, he proposes a new approach.

“Implemented with the FSB, we’ll create a UK equivalent of the US Small Business Administration,” he said. “I’ve been over there to see what they’ve done, seen how they support small business.”

Both Umunna and Perkins, unsurprisingly, strongly support the UK’s ongoing membership of the European Union. While UKIP are strongly against the continued relationship, and the Conservatives are weighing up holding an in or out referendum if re-election is secured, Labour are firmly committed to the world’s largest trading block.

A reformed EU, one where Britain is more deeply engaged and leading the way, is what Umunna wants to achieve. “We [as the former Labour government] were able to marshall a majority on so many issues. [David] Cameron is the first to lose a vote at the European council,” he said.

“We need it to be more of a growth focus, pushing the EU growth commissioner – working on structural reforms and not unduly burdening businesses across Europe.”

When it comes to Perkins, he believes walking away from the world’s largest trading block is foolhardy. “Pulling up the draw bridge would be catastrophic,” he urged to us. Whether or not a business is exporting, leaving the EU would have a far bigger impact than the Scottish referendum threatened have and would be a “massive barrier” to certainty and growth at a time when it is “desperately needed”, he urged.

“You only have to look around the UK to see evidence the world is shrinking,” Perkins added. “Economies are interacting with each other more and more. Alongside the BRICs, you have more and more developing countries coming through.”

See page two to find out about the Labour approach to business finance, corporation tax and the skills gap.


Read our other general election 2015 interviews:

Toby Perkins makes his video pitch to British businesses, explaining the party’s approach to the EU, business rates and general growth of the economy.


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