1. Economics
April 5, 2018

“Who wants to be rich in a country that isn’t fair?” On London’s pro-Labour business community

By Kevin Craig

On 3 May this year, millions of Londoners will vote in elections to decide who will run the 32 boroughs that comprise our capital. According to the latest polls, Labour are set to sweep through the city, with the Conservatives losing as many as half of the boroughs they currently control.

Although London has long been considered a left-wing city, it is also one of the most commercially active metropoles in the world. Given years of Conservative smears that Labour is the anti-business party, these projections of success under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn may come as a surprise to some.

But with the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI) throwing its support behind Corbyn’s Brexit stance, Conservative centrists adopting the supposedly radical policies of ‘Red Ed’ Miliband en masse, and a chorus of “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn” heard chanted by ‘City boys’ throughout the bars of London’s financial playground, it’s clear we are seeing a sentiment towards Labour from the London business community warming. 

Whatever happens, May’s results are not to be taken lightly when it comes to searching for clues about a changing shift of the relationship between business and politics. 

Running and growing a successful business since 2006, I’ve navigated the tail-end of the Blairite years, the Coalition era, and both Conservative-majority and minority government. Throughout the changing political winds, we’ve thrived commercially – but it is the social aspects of government where I have personally felt the biggest impact.

Often, I find myself asking, who wants to be rich in a country that isn’t fair? I’m sure I’m not the only businessperson in the capital who is concerned. Contrary to our reputation, London is made up of a diverse range of talented and successful businesspeople whose motivations extend beyond merely revenue and profits. 

It’s for that reason that London’s cohort of entrepreneurs looks at Jeremy Corbyn’s vision for the future and see something that resonates. They want to see policies that will help businesses succeed, whilst using the proceeds to look after those in society that need it most. 

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And in comparison with other parts of Europe and the world, Labour’s business policies are actually fairly moderate and pragmatic. Corporation tax under Corbyn and his shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, would remain the lowest of Europe’s G7 countries and be 8 per cent lower than it was under Margaret Thatcher. This isn’t something that is widely reported – despite being a crucial factor for so many SMEs up and down the country. And of course in Sadiq Khan we have a very business friendly Labour mayor who’s making the case for a commercially-strong capital, post-Brexit. 

The elections in May therefore represent a watershed moment. A resounding Labour victory in the capital could act as the starting gun for a new kind of economics: one that holds business as a force that not only fosters growth, high-quality jobs and improved services, but also recognises the role companies have to play in a fairer, more just society. That’s something worth voting for. 

Kevin Craig is a Labour councillor on the London Borough of Lambeth and runs the communications agency, PLMR

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