More than 120 business leaders back Labour 'to achieve UK's full economic potential'

27 May 2024, 20:37 | Updated: 28 May 2024, 15:43

More than 120 business leaders have written an open letter giving their backing to Labour in the general election.

Senior figures, including chef Tom Kerridge and former CEOs of Heathrow, JP Morgan and Aston Martin, said the party had "shown it has changed and wants to work with business to achieve the UK's full economic potential".

They said the public should now "give it the chance to change the country and lead Britain into the future".

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Both Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves have long been making efforts to win over the business community since taking over the party from Jeremy Corbyn.

An open letter printed in The Times and signed by figures including the founders of Wikileaks Jimmy Wales and Koru Kids - the latter of which was once invested in by the prime minister's wife - shows signs of success in the endeavour.

Making her first major speech of the campaign on Tuesday, Ms Reeves welcomed the letter, saying Labour was "the natural party of business".

But asked for his response, Rishi Sunak said: "Well, I'm not sure what [the business leaders] actually think that they're backing, because Labour really haven't said what they would do differently for businesses in our country.

"But we can look at what they're doing in Labour-run Wales, where they are increasing taxes for small businesses, in contrast to what we're doing in England."

In the letter, the business people said it was "time for a change" as "for too long now, our economy has been beset by instability, stagnation, and a lack of long-term focus".

They said the UK had "the potential to be one of the strongest economies in the world", but a "lack of political stability and the absence of consistent economic strategy has held it back".

The business figures added: "We are looking for a government that will partner fiscal discipline with a long-term growth strategy, working in partnership with the private sector to drive innovation and investment to build digital and physical capital and fix our skills system.

"This is the only way to put us on track for sustained productivity growth.

"Labour has shown it has changed and wants to work with business to achieve the UK's full economic potential. We should now give it the chance to change the country and lead Britain into the future.

"We are in urgent need of a new outlook to break free from the stagnation of the last decade and we hope by taking this public stand we might persuade others of that need too."

Labour's shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds told Sky News: "It is an extraordinary, I think, turnaround - a recognition of how Labour has changed."

He said the fact there are "so many significant business figures" who feel they can say Labour has changed and has a plan for the economy shows "we have built a coalition of people who want better for the UK, for the British economy".

Mr Reynolds added that the business leaders are supporting "the fact we are unashamedly going to end exploitative zero hours contracts or practices like fire and rehire".

The Conservative Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride told Sky News there are no FTSE 100 leaders among the signatories of the pro-Labour letter and its supporters "are not the kind of businesses" who would support the Tories anyway.

On the prime minister's wife investing in childcare provider Koru Kids, whose founder signed the letter, Mr Stride said: "I think people in this country should be allowed to invest in businesses, it's something that I think is really important."

Asked if it was embarrassing for the Conservatives, he said: "No, not at all."