General Election 2015: We don’t endorse Miliband, say firms quoted in advert

Some of the firms expressed dismay over their bosses’ words being used to score party political points

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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.”

Siemens chief executive Juergen Maier says Labour has ‘overstepped the line’

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”.

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.”

Spokespeople for the companies involved, including BHP Billiton, stressed their political neutrality (Getty)

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.”