Blair wins business vote of confidence

Tony Blair yesterday took a big step towards reassuring the business community that Labour could be trusted in power and that its economic and industrial policies would not be hijacked by the hard left.

Business leaders attending the annual conference of the British Chambers of Commerce in Birmingham gave an overwhelming vote of confidence to the Labour leader as he spelt out the party's plans on taxation, the economy, labour relations and education, trade and Europe.

Delegates said that Mr Blair had received a warmer welcome than the President of the Board of Trade, Ian Lang, who spoke on Tuesday, and had gone a long way to laying the ghost of Labour's interventionist past.

In a foretaste of Labour's Road to Manifesto document being unveiled today, Mr Blair pledged that its economic policy once in power would be based on "save and invest, not tax and spend".

He repeated his pledge to work for sustainable non-inflationary growth, saying Labour would set and stick to an explicit low target for inflation and would not indulge in a dash for short-term growth.

He also pledged that although Labour supported the Social Chapter and a minimum wage, any new measures would only be introduced after consultation with business and if they enhanced Britain's competitiveness.

On regulation he promised a "lean but effective" regime which did not tie business up in unnecessary bureaucratic knots. Labour would also be in the forefront of promoting free trade and opposing protectionism while it would give Britain a leading role in determining Europe's future.

But above all Mr Blair sought to persuade his audience that Labour's economic policies would not alter once in power and that the idea of the hard left just waiting until it got into office to reverse its policies was "ridiculous".

He said: "We say what we mean and we mean what we say. The old ideologies are dead. The traditional divisions between left and right over business are a thing of the past."

He said it was fundamentally unhealthy that business had a history of siding with one political party against another. But there had been a transformation in the understanding and trust of Labour in the business community.

Robin Geldard, the past-president of the British Chambers of Commerce, said afterwards that Mr Blair had done much to allay the fears of the business community although his successor, David Richardson, cautioned that the Labour leader's ability to hold the line might depend on the size of his majority.

Bob Moore of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said that Mr Blair had received a warmer response than Mr Lang and had captured the mood of optimism. "What we saw today was a pragmatic and professional approach. There is an increasing sense that business would be comfortable working with either party," he said.

John Townsend, chairman of the Association of East Midlands Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said: "Blair is convincing quite a body of the business community that Labour is a party with which we can work. There is nowhere near the apprehension that there was only five years ago." Other delegates went further, saying that the Labour leader had moved directly into territory occupied by the Conservatives and that fears about the Social Chapter were vastly overstated.

Roger Charnley, chief executive of the Lincolnshire Chambers of Commerce said that businessmen there already had experience of a Labour-controlled City Council in Lincoln and it had worked well. "If there is to be a Labour administration we would seek to work with it."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advisor – Ind Advisory Firm

$125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Finance Manager

Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Sheridan Maine: Regulatory Reporting Accountant

Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick