Ed Miliband fails to persuade industry leaders of his business credentials

 

Political Editor

Ed Miliband’s attempt to woo company bosses who regard his policies as “anti-business” received a hostile response from some industry figures today.

Although the Labour leader softened his rhetoric in a speech to his mainly business audience, some of those present expressed concern that his interventionist, “anti-big business”  stance could undermine the economy if Labour wins power next year.

Sir Roger Carr, the chairman of BAE Systems, won applause when he told a conference addressed earlier by Mr Miliband that the “demonisation” of business by politicians needed to stop. While small businesses were important, he said they needed big business to succeed too. He added politicians should not "lurch back" to the policies of the past in the hope they would provide a solution.

Responding to Mr Miliband’s speech, Katja Hall, the CBI’s deputy director, said: “We need politicians to focus on long-term solutions that set the right environment for businesses to create long-term prosperity - not policies or political rhetoric with short-term appeal. The CBI wants to see competitive markets but the way to get there is not by artificially intervening in markets to leave businesses with a lot of uncertainty, which will only serve to put investment decisions on hold.”

Harriet Green, chief executive of Thomas Cook, told BBC Radio 4 that every action planned by Labour was about “interventionism” rather than generating jobs, growth or exports.

Lord Sainsbury, Labour’s former Science Minister, opening the conference staged by the Policy Network think tank, said: “Neither industry nor the voters feel they fully know how the Labour Party views its relationship with industry.” He said business needed to know that Labour would support big business and applaud entrepreneurs.

Mr Miliband admitted that much of the business community felt that politicians showed "insufficient appreciation" for what they did for the country, and conceded that Labour would inevitably have policy differences with them. He added: "There is no way for our country to succeed without you - businesses big and small - succeeding."

He was received politely but was applauded when he pledged to resist pressure to match David Cameron’s promise of an in/out referendum on Europe in the 2015-20 parliament. Unite, Labour’s biggest donor, called this week for a referendum. But many bosses are worried about the uncertainty caused by Mr Cameron’s strategy and Labour believes Europe is its biggest “selling point” to the business world.

Mr Miliband said: “I am absolutely convinced that our future lies in the EU. I am not going to follow others in saying that we should commit to spending the next three years focusing on an EU referendum in 2017. It is not the priority for the country.”

Gene Sperling, a former economic adviser to US presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, told the conference: “It's a very, very serious mistake for the current Government to even flirt with the idea of walking away from the EU table. The world doesn't allow you to isolate yourself any more. You have to choose: are you going to be engaged in shaping European economic policy or are you going to walk away from the table?"

Some Labour politicians said Mr Miliband needed to build on yesterday’s address. One frontbencher admitted: “Businessmen are sceptical. They are not sure Ed really means it. One speech is not enough. We need more than a box-ticking exercise.”

But Lord Mandelson, who has been critical of Labour’s business stance and who organised today's conference with Ed Balls, backed Mr Miliband. “From a business point of view, his speech will be welcomed and judged a success. It was practical and gritty and that appeals,” he said.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
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 General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam