Labour's surrender to big business means it's now at its mercy

Miliband has chipped away at the pro-business consensus, but failed to inspire his core support
Miliband has chipped away at the pro-business consensus, but failed to inspire his core support
Ian Dunt By

There is nothing remotely surprising or impressive about business leaders supporting a Conservative government. After all, they have been the winners of the Tories' relentless support for the wealthiest people in society. Today's letter from 100 business leaders to the Telegraph is even good enough to point out how plainly self-interested this support is, with George Osborne's repeated cuts to corporation tax featuring prominently.

Business leaders supporting Tories is as interesting and newsworthy as nurses supporting Labour. That would never win headlines. The fact the business letter is leading bulletins on the Today programme hints at the deep political assumptions of the political mainstream. Few are willing to explore how what is good for business leaders is not necessarily good for workers. And since Tony Blair took charge, the Labour party has been no better.

Business leaders may say their success leads to job creation - but what kind of jobs, with what sort of pay? A significant decline in employment standard has seen us lose the notion that someone is entitled to a decent day's pay for a decent day's work. Workers are paid so little they have to rely on tax credits and credit cards to sustain the spending a consumer economy demands. The relentless focus on business interests, rather than workers' interests, has damaged the economy as well as the quality of people's lives.

Instead of dwelling on the signatories of the letter, Labour officials might do well to read the ComRes poll for ITN of voters in their Scottish constituencies last night. It found 30% of those who voted Labour in 2010 were now planning to vote SNP. When asked why, 35% said it was because Labour "no longer represents people like me".

That process had been taking place for some time. It was 1998 when Peter Mandelson first said that Labour was "intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich", while Tony Blair went on a 'prawn cocktail offensive' to get the City onside. The total lack of critical thinking about the private sector continued throughout Labour's time in office, with the 2001 and 2005 elections seeing the party promoting its own letter of support from business leaders.

Ed Miliband has taken a more robust stance, but there are few radical moves to compliment the rhetoric of a 'squeezed middle'. As with most areas of his leadership, he has gone far enough to alienate his natural opponents, but not far enough to inspire his natural supporters.

Even on Monday of this week, he was proudly promoting business support for his refusal to hold a referendum on membership of the EU – a tactic which rather backfired when some of those quoted distanced themselves from the ad.

Some of those pro-business chickens came home to roost today. It’s hard for Labour to dismiss the letter when five of its signatories - Surinder Arora, Duncan Bannatyne, Charles Dunstone, Cameron Mackintosh and Moni Varma - are former Labour supporters. If their views matter so little (and they do) then why was Labour once so keen to promote them?

This decades-long flirt with business has left Labour isolated. It is unable to convince its supporters it will represent their interests because it has spent so long defending those of the rich. It has failed to make the argument that what is good for business leaders is not necessarily good for their workers. And it has sold itself out to business so thoroughly that it cannot dismiss the Telegraph letter, because it has often done the same thing itself.

This is the natural fate of a left wing party selling itself out to business interests. When those interests return to their natural home, you no longer have the ability to challenge them.

Comments

Load in comments
Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.