Inside Labour Business Day 2021: Finding a new normal

The party conferences are back and with them the challenge of speaking to multiple audiences – to the party faithful, to the general public and to competing interest groups.

But where does business feature in this mix?

At Labour Business Day 2021, the party is signalling that it cannot achieve the better future it seeks for the workforce, the planet and for local communities without working better with business. But how will it cultivate this new relationship and what are Labour’s current expectations of business?

We have been picking up the following themes from Labour Business Day 2021 in Brighton:

More progressive – Labour has set out their new deal for workers with policies underpinned by security, fairness, dignity and respect.

If we are to ‘build back better’ Labour believe that this rhetoric must match the reality of people’s lives and business must offer and adhere to certain minimum standards.

Businesses must also pay their fair share and be taxed progressively through regimes that, for example, acknowledge how the pandemic has only accelerated the digital economy.

More stable – Mariana Mazzucato’s book, ‘An Entrepreneurial State’, has been getting lots of name checks.

Labour want to provide business with greater certainty as to how the state will behave under a Labour Government – empowering them to innovate and plan for the longer term.

Something different from the ‘spray and pray’ approach that might characterise how some here in Brighton view the current Government’s efforts to engage with business.

More locally focused – Labour is signalling they are less about top-down command and control and more about listening from the ground up.

This presents both a challenge and an opportunity for business.

A challenge in that a patchwork of policies might create unnecessary complexity for business to resolve at a national level. An opportunity for business to communicate how they create value for their workforce and local communities as part of the ‘everyday economy’.

More globally competitive – Labour wants to invest billions in green industries, particularly those with a manufacturing and infrastructure angle to create UK based businesses and jobs to deliver goods and services that otherwise would be delivered overseas.

More accountability – particularly for those businesses involved in delivering projects funded by the public purse.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves was uncompromising in her view of the need to claw back money from those companies that had failed to deliver contracts. She also wants to set up another independent scrutiny body, the Office for Value for Money, to assess how well the machinery of Government commissions goods and services.

In doing so, Labour hopes to engage the UK business community in a more inclusive, productive, fairer, sustainable society. The question is… how different will this agenda be from that articulated at the Conservative Conference next week?

Director and partner, Liam McCloy

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