Business leaders declare support for Labour

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The Independent Online
Seven leading businessmen who have never voted Labour before have written an open letter to be published today which backs Tony Blair and New Labour.

According to the Labour Party yesterday, the letter was organised by Alec Reed, chairman of Reed Personnel Services and one of its signatories. It was a response to a previous open letter published last week in support of the Conservatives and signed by 38 company chiefs, which said that "Labour can't be trusted".

Today's pro-Labour letter would seem to testify to the success of New Labour's "prawn cocktail offensive" in the City in which the party has worked hard to dispel its image of high taxation and high spending.

Signatories to today's pro-Labour letter include Alan Sugar, chairman of Amstrad, Gerry Robinson, chairman of Granada, Sir Trevor Chinn, chairman of Lex Service, and Ronald Cohen, chairman of Apax Partners.

The letter is also signed by Paul Rose, managing director of Evrose Business Consultants and Paul Nesbit, managing director of Mistal Time Services.

The seven businessmen write: "In the past, we have not voted Labour. We believed that re-electing the Conservatives or voting Liberal offered the best hope for this country and for business. We will not be voting Conservative or Liberal on 1 May but backing New Labour for the same reasons."

The business leaders say they recognise that improvements have been made in the last five years but believe there is much more that needs to be done. "We do not have the confidence that the present Government could meet these challenges."

They write that the country needs a government which understands the importance of education, skills and training in the global marketplace. They say they believe Labour can close the skills deficit with Britain's competitors.

The letter becomes positively florid when talking about Tony Blair's modernisation of the party: "He has shown he instinctively understands our future economic prosperity depends upon innovation, entrepreneurial dynamism and equipping our country with new skills."

The letter concludes: "Tony Blair's vision and leadership qualities have convinced us to vote New Labour on 1 May. And it is why we have put our personal support on record."

Separately, a survey of 315 business managers to be published today suggests that both Tory and Labour campaigning has had no impact on voters' intentions. Eighty-five per cent of managers surveyed said the campaign has done nothing to change the way they intend to vote, according to the Institute of Management.