Labour leader calls for new style politics

Business leaders express doubts over Corbyn’s economic credibility

Corbyn collage

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s address to the party’s conference received a frosty response from business leaders tonight who expressed concern that he had credible solutions to tackle economic problems.

Mr Corbyn attacked the Conservative government’s austerity programme as “an utterly failed approach” and pledged o bring the railways back into public ownership, prioritise affordable housing and address inequality.

He called on David Cameron to come to the aid of steel workers facing job losses on Teesside “as the Italian government has done” to support its industry.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite,  the biggest trade union in Britain and Ireland, praised Mr Corbyn’s hour-long speech to delegates in Brighton.

“I believe people will like what they see,” Mr McCluskey said. But business was much less welcoming and he faced criticism when it emerged that parts of the more ideological sections of the speech were written several years ago by a former adviser to Denis Healey.

Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors said: “There was not much space for business in this speech, with the new Labour leader striking a largely pessimistic tone on the economy. The recovery after the financial crash of 2008 has been difficult, but we would have liked to see more acknowledgement of the vital role the private sector has played in creating jobs and driving growth.

“While we are more positive about the UK’s current economic performance, Jeremy Corbyn did identify several areas of concern that will chime with businesses. Improving our broadband infrastructure, stimulating manufacturing and building more houses are all goals we share. Only a few weeks into the job, we would not expect the new leader to be able to spell out the detail of his party’s policies, but until he does, it will be hard to judge whether he has credible solutions to the problems.”

Mr Walker added: “We welcome Mr Corbyn’s recognition that the nature of work is changing, and that many people choose to become self-employed because they value the independence. Britain’s start-up scene is booming, and Labour should be looking at ways to make it easier for entrepreneurs to get finance, such as by simplifying investment tax reliefs.

“Business leaders support deficit reduction. The Labour leader emphasised the importance of protecting the economy from the next economic crisis, but this can only be done if government spending is brought under control.”

John Cridland freeJohn Cridland, CBI Director-General, said: “We share Labour’s aim of ensuring the benefits of growth are spread more evenly across the UK, but we don’t recognise Mr Corbyn’s characterisation of the economy. While there’s still more to do on exports, the recovery is more balanced than Mr Corbyn argues. It is not based on a house price-fuelled asset bubble, but on business investment, which is spurring stronger wage growth and rising living standards.

“Far from driving down wages, globalisation has in fact drawn many people around the world out of poverty, offering hope and opportunity”

“Areas of common ground with Labour include education for every child and housing for every family. But it is a thriving private sector that will generate the wealth needed to achieve Mr Corbyn’s objectives and the CBI is ready to work with the Labour party on its policy review.

“Business wants to see a commitment to fiscal responsibility as getting down the deficit is vital to providing high-quality public services, and a recognition of the need to encourage an entrepreneurial Britain.”


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