LETTER:A step closer to the centre ground

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From Dr Sebastian Berry

Sir: It is to be hoped that Labour's burgeoning links with commercial lobbyists ("Power brokers go hunting on the left", 6 November) represent rather more than an exercise in mutual and private backscratching in advance of the general election. Of far more significance is the extent to which this trend may suggest a further step in Labour's long march toward centre ground "respectability".

There is nothing new in business attempts at dialogue with the Labour leadership. What has changed, at least on the surface, is Labour's embrace of interests once considered anathema to the party. It is not all that long ago that some of Britain's most successful companies and organisations were unwelcome at Labour's annual conference, particularly among ordinary delegates.

Lobbyists have always been interested in Labour contacts, even during the party's wilderness years in the Eighties. It will take more than the Labour/lobbyist revolving door, and the commercialisation of Labour conference, to convince business that Labour's free market "conversion" is complete.

Yours faithfully,

Sebastian Berry

New York