Ed Miliband suffered embarrassment as businesses featured in a Labour advertisement warning of the dangers of leaving the European Union distanced themselves from the party.
Published ahead of Labour’s business manifesto launch, it quoted senior figures in six large companies arguing that a British exit would harm the economy, cost jobs and deter foreign investment.
But some of the firms expressed dismay over their bosses’ words being used to score party political points.
Siemens UK, whose chief executive, Juergen Maier, was quoted in the advert, protested that Labour had “overstepped the line”.
Mr Maier said yesterday: “We don’t want to see our comments attributed specifically to any particular party.”
Kellogg’s said the comments by its UK managing director, Jonathan Myers, were made more than a year ago. A spokesman said: “Clearly we have concern with anything that goes into the public domain that would lean us to a political party. We are politically neutral.”
Spokespeople for BHP Billiton and Nomura, which were also quoted, stressed their companies’ political neutrality.
But Simon Franks, the co-founder of Lovefilm, said: “The party asked me if they could use that quote and I consented. I really think it is very unfair to attack the Labour Party for printing those quotes.”
The comments appeared in a full-page advertisement in the Financial Times in which Labour highlighted its opposition to leaving the EU and promised to “put the national interest first”.
Experts' predictions for the general election
Experts' predictions for the general election
1/10 Andrew Hawkins (ComRes)
Just as the polls in 2010 pointed to no overall majority for any party, the overwhelming evidence points to Labour either being the largest party or getting a small majority, probably below 20. The Lib Dems and SNP should each win between 25 and 35 seats, with single-figure wins for both Ukip and the Greens.
2/10 Joe Twyman (YouGov)
I predict it will be close. I predict a few tremors, though earthquakes are unlikely. I predict the eventual winner may not be the direct result of public opinion, but instead the outcome of political negotiations. It’s too early to predict numbers given all the uncertainties surrounding (among other things) Ukip, the SNP and the Lib Dems. It is possible that it will be close between Conservative and Labour in terms of both votes and seats. The Lib Dems might retain 20-30 seats and the balance of power, despite small gains for the SNP, and at most half a dozen Ukip seats. Gun to my head? Labour minority government.
3/10 Ben Page (Ipsos MORI)
A mug’s game for this election months away, but my predictions in order of likelihood: most likely a hung parliament or coalition of some kind, closely followed by either a small Labour majority or an equally small Conservative majority. Given how close the parties are, the unknown performance of Ukip in key marginals, the effect of incumbency on Lib Dem losses, the final size of SNP surge and so on, to be more precise is simply foolish! Professor Tetlock, who found that forecasts by experts were only slightly better than throwing dice, weighs heavily upon me!
4/10 Rick Nye (Populus)
I can see a hung parliament, where Labour is the largest party in terms of seats – though not necessarily in terms of votes, with the Lib Dems having 30 seats or fewer, the SNP having up to 20 seats and Ukip having no more than five seats. In short, it’s going to get messy and stay messy for some time to come.
5/10 Nick Moon (GfK)
I can’t recall there ever being an election more difficult to predict than this one. I’m confident no party will have an overall majority, with the Tories probably the largest party but no single partner for a viable coalition, with the Lib Dems on 25 seats, the SNP 20, Ukip three, and the Greens one.
6/10 Damian Lyons Lowe (Survation)
We might have expected a workable Labour majority, were it not for the wild-card rise of the SNP in Scotland. Survation’s December Scottish polls suggest an almost complete wipeout by the SNP in Scotland and result in 40+ seat gains – mostly at Labour’s expense. My current predictions are: Labour the largest party by 40-50 seats over the Tories, no overall majority; Tories 235-255 seats; Lib Dems 20-30 seats; SNP 30-40 seats – maybe held back from potential support level by opposition incumbency and tactical voting by pro-unionist voters. Finally, Ukip, 5-10 wins from Conservatives, including Rochester and Clacton, and potentially a single Labour-seat surprise.
7/10 Michelle Harrison (TNS)
The battleground over the next three months is at the kitchen table – the difference between what the statistics tell us about the economy, the experience that Britons are having of managing their household budgets, and where – and if – they believe politics can make a difference. In this regard, the disconnect with the major political parties is more interesting than the horse race.
8/10 James Endersby (Opinium Research)
Our first poll for 2015 shows Labour one point ahead [see above], but polls four months out from an election are snapshots, not predictions. It would be extremely unwise for a pollster to make a firm prediction now. At the moment, Opinium’s estimate on polling day would be the Tories slightly ahead on vote share, but Labour slightly ahead on seats. These numbers are based on a uniform swing, with tweaks to Green and Ukip numbers based on local information: Labour 320 seats, Conservatives 271, Lib Dems 20, SNP 16, Plaid Cymru three, Greens two, Ukip four. A hung parliament with Labour potentially closer to a majority coalition than the Conservatives.
9/10 Martin Boon (ICM)
I’ve not recovered from the Scottish referendum campaign yet, and here we go with another wildcard strewn nail-biter. For me, Labour on 30 per cent will only fractionally nudge past their woeful 2010 showing – behind the Tories on 33 per cent – but enough to secure more seats (290 for Labour, 280 for the Tories) on boundary wackiness. The Lib Dems will secure 14 per cent of the vote and 35 seats; Ukip will also get 14 per cent, but that only gets them a couple of seats. As for Scotland, I’m bewildered, but as you asked I’ll say 30 seats for the SNP, which wipes out a breathing-space victory in seats for Labour.
10/10 Lord Ashcroft (Lord Ashcroft Polls)
Declined to take part. His spokeswoman said: “As he has said many times, his polls are snapshots not predictions.” Health warning: when The Independent on Sunday carried out a similar exercise in April 2010, at the start of that year’s election campaign, eight out of eight pollsters predicted a Conservative overall majority.
The party believes growing levels of Euroscepticism within Tory ranks will alarm leaders of business and industry.
It appeared as part of an attempt by the party to tackle criticism that it is pursuing an anti-business agenda.
Labour said it had alerted the companies concerned that it planned to use the quotes, which were all in the public domain.
Mr Miliband said: “Lots of businesses all around this country are not necessarily going to be supporting Labour or the Conservatives but they do have a very strong view about our place in the EU. I think this is absolutely at stake in this general election.”
But Conservative Treasury minister Priti Patel said: “It’s no surprise business leaders are once again rushing to distance themselves from Ed Miliband.
“Labour crashed the economy the last time they were in power by borrowing, spending and taxing too much.”
Today Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, will promise to use Labour’s first Budget to cut business rates for 1.5 million small business premises and then freeze them the following year.
He will also set out plans to cut red tape and establish a British Investment Bank to increase lending to small businesses.
Mr Balls will say: “Unleashing the potential of smaller businesses to grow, create more good jobs and raise living standards is a vital part of Labour’s better plan.”Reuse content