Labour to set up 'business forum' in effort to understand election defeat

The shadow Chancellor is to conduct an inquest with the CBI, Federation of Small Businesses and Chambers of Commerce

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Chris Leslie, the shadow Chancellor, is to conduct an inquest into why Labour lost the support of businesses in its heavy election defeat last month.

Mr Leslie said he wants to set up a “business forum” and meet leaders from groups such as the Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Businesses and the British Chambers of Commerce to find out why businesses of all sizes mostly backed the Conservatives. Labour is thought to have spooked many businesses through its tough language on energy firms and bill hikes, the City’s bonus culture, and foreign takeovers.

“I want to do a really in-depth walk-through, during the course of the summer, over which of our policies businesses liked, such as cutting business rates [for 1.5 million small company properties], and what they didn’t like,” said Mr Leslie. “We need to work through [everything] sector by sector, area of policy by area of policy.”

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Michael Rake is the president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI)

Mr Leslie has also written to Robert Chote, the chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), to ask him to assess the impact of government spending cuts on productivity. Despite the economic recovery, productivity growth has been at its slowest since the Second World War.

The OBR is a non-departmental body designed to provide independent economic forecasts and analysis of the public finances. Mr Leslie’s letter states: “Given the importance of productivity growth to delivering rising living standards and getting the deficit down in a way that meets the Government’s fiscal mandate, the OBR’s assessment would be particularly informative to the public debate.”

In an article for The Independent on Sunday online, Gloria De Piero, the shadow women and equalities minister, outlined a separate analysis of where and how Labour lost support. In a joint article with Jon Ashworth, deputy chair of the Labour Party, she said: “It’s clear we lost support among families with young kids and suburban professionals. We made no gains with those living on modest incomes in small and medium-sized towns … and failed to win back the young ‘New Homemakers’ living in new-build Barratt Home estates that spread out from the edge of towns.”

 

Ms De Piero, Mr Ashworth and Mr Leslie have not yet announced which of the contenders to succeed Ed Miliband they will be supporting. There is a hustings of the Parliamentary Labour Party for the leadership at the GMB union’s annual congress later this week.

The GMB is widely expected to support Andy Burnham, the shadow Health Secretary, as he is seen as the leading left-leaning candidate. But a senior official insisted that the contest for GMB support is “wide open”, which offers hope to more centrist contenders such as Yvette Cooper and Mary Creagh.

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Labour leadership contender Liz Kendall has said that promoting devolution to the regions, including the North, is key to winning the 2020 election (Getty)

Ms Creagh told The Independent on Sunday this weekend that she wants the party to commit to the Nato requirement of spending 2 per cent of national income on defence. The shadow International Development Secretary described herself as “bootstrap Labour” last month, having served as a councillor and a local authority leader.

Leader hopefuls

Shadow care minister Liz Kendall has argued that Labour let the Conservatives “steal” the party’s idea of a Northern Powerhouse to rebalance the economy away from its dependence on London.

Speaking at the Labour leadership hustings at the Fabian Conference in London, the second favourite to succeed Ed Miliband said that promoting devolution to the regions, including the North, was key to winning the 2020 election.

The favourite, shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, claimed that Labour needed to run a distinct campaign on the EU referendum demanding reform should the UK stay in, making sure that the party did not simply look like it was defending status quo.

The latest candidate to declare, Jeremy Corbyn, said many people who voted Ukip at the last general election knew little about the party, but they disliked traditional politicians. Mary Creagh provided one of the best soundbites, declaring the Conservatives and Ukip to be “two horns on the same goat”.

The final candidate, shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, claimed she had been opposed to the introduction and increase of tuition fees since 1999. The issue dominated the early part of the coalition government, as it trebled fees to £9,000. Mark Leftly

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