More than 100 business leaders, including former Labour donors, have warned that a change of government in the general election would “threaten jobs and deter investment” in a letter published today.
The letter, signed by 103 business executives, praises Conservative economic policy which it says has “been good for business and has pursued policies which have supported investment and job creation”.
In what is perceived as a clear attack on Labour the letter, published in The Daily Telegraph, says: “We believe a change in course will threaten jobs and deter investment. This would send a negative message about Britain and put the recovery at risk."
Some of the most surprising names include the theatre director and former Labour donor Sir Cameron Macintosh and Dragons’ Den investor Sir Duncan Bannatyne, who in 2010 claimed he would “hate” to see David Cameron in power and described the Chancellor George Osborne as weak.
Other signatories include Bob Dudley, the chief executive of BP, Tidjane Thiam, the chief executive of Prudential, George Weston, the chief executive of Associated British Foods which owns the Primark, Silver Spoon and Ovaltine brands and Sir Charles Dunstone, the chairman of Dixons Carphone and Talk Talk plc.
The letter was published hours before the party announced its proposal to clamp-down on zero-hours contracts should Ed Miliband become Prime Minister.
On Monday his party came under criticism for using quotes from six business leaders in an Financial Times advert under the headline: “The biggest risk to British business is the threat of an EU exit”. The chief executive of Siemens UK, whose brand was included in the ad, said the party had “overstepped the line” while Kelloggs said it was “concerned with anything that goes into the public domain that would lean us to a political party”.
That line of defence is going to prove tricky for many of brands of today’s letter published in The Telegraph which includes signatures of business leaders from firms including Iceland, Ladbrokes, Ted Baker, Marston's, Greene King and Asos and others. Also pledging support is Peter Grauer, the chairman of Bloomberg, where Mr Miliband on Monday launched his plan to win over a reluctant business community.
The letter highlights the Conservative policy of lowering corporation tax to 20 per cent effective today – a policy that Labour intend to reverse to lower business rates on the UK’s 1.5m small business. “It has been a key part of their (the Government's) economic plan," the letter says. "The result is that Britain grew faster than any other major economy last year and businesses like ours have created over 1.85 million new jobs.”
Responding to the letter, Labour's shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna said Labour’s priority was “tax cuts for small firms”.
“No one will be surprised that some business people are calling for low taxes for big businesses. That's nothing new and under Labour Britain will have the most competitive corporation tax rate in the G7,” he said. “But whilst the recovery may have reached some firms it hasn't reached many others which is why we will prioritise tax cuts for the smallest firms with an immediate cut in business rates for 1.5 million small business premises.”
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