Miliband and Cameron trade blows at the CBI

By Ian Dunt

Ed Miliband and David Cameron have traded blows at the Confederation for British Industry (CBI), as both men make their pitch to the country’s business leaders.

Mr Miliband argued that the Tories have failed to understand the lessons of the financial crisis and are devoid of plans to stimulate growth in the economy.

The crisis has led to realisation among Labour figures that government must support enterprise more robustly, Mr Miliband admitted.

“Without profound change in the way we manage our economy, we are at risk of, at best, sleepwalking back to an economy riddled with the same risks as we saw before the recession hit,” he said.

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“The way to support business and ensure a return to prosperity is to tackle these risks, not ignore them.”

Mr Miliband argued that for business to thrive, government needs to take a leading role – a point Mr Cameron seemed to agree with.

“The question isn’t ‘should government be involved’. The real question is ‘what is the right kind of involvement’,” the prime minister said.

“I believe one of the most important things government can do is help drive trade.”

Mr Cameron used his speech to announce the creation of ‘technology innovation centres’ so British companies can be at the forefront of innovation.

“To build that new dynamism in our economy, to create the growth, jobs and opportunities Britain needs, we’ve got to back the big businesses of tomorrow, not just the big businesses of today,” the prime minister said.

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“That means opening up access to finance, creating an attractive environment for venture capital funding, getting banks lending to small businesses again.”

Vince Cable will be speaking for the Liberal Democrats in the afternoon while Nick Clegg speech will come during the dinner in the early evening.

Mr Cable is expected to deliver a tough speech promising a more robust competition regime and substantial reform of the baking system.

“For those who say that by crimping the banks’ style, by stopping them indulging in short term speculation, that we are somehow damaging their shareholders’ interests, I want to know: how did short termism work out for you?” he will say to the audience of business leaders.

The CBI conference usually sees party leaders vie for the favour of business leaders, but this year’s event has a heightened relevance as nerves over the strength of the economic recovery dominate the political agenda.

George Osborne’s economic plan relies heavily on a substantial surge in the private sector to soak up public sector job losses.

Labour argues that the chancellor has overestimated the number of position the private sector will be able to offer. The government has focused on boosting the prospect of investment in Britain, not least by radically reducing corporation tax.