In light of the Tories plan to paint Labour as anti-business, a manoeuvre that any semi-astute watcher of British politics could have predicted in June 2010, Tristram Hunt has been tasked (or taken it upon himself, who knows) to punch back.
Excerpts from the Andrew Marr interview Tristram gave on the topic:
“I’m enormously enthusiastic about businessmen and women making money, about delivering shareholder return, about making profit, not least because that will help to support the Sure Start children’s centres and the schools.
“What is the challenge for our business as well? It is markets. Only the Labour Party is committed to ensuring we have got a successful UK working in Europe delivering those markets for modern British business. So we are a furiously, passionately, aggressively pro-business party.”
Mentioning Europe was smart. It is weirdly the Tories weak spot, at least with the business community. You know, the whole taking them out of a market they rely on for profits – never plays well with business, political parties ruining their access to markets. So for a Labour politician to play on that was astute.
As for the rest? Well, asking Tristram to overturn the impression left by “Bill somebody” is an impossible ask, even for such a charming fellow as Mr Hunt. However, “aggressively pro-business” does feel just a tad like over-reaching. Let’s roll back the last five years and think about Labour’s approach to business, shall we?
Actually, in all honesty, when looked at objectively, Miliband hasn’t said that much anti-business stuff. Anti-banking fulminations by the boot-load, but I wouldn’t count those necessarily (although it’s still not helpful to the perception). Anti-cuts rants in extremis (anti-cuts marchers compared to the Suffragettes in 2010 being a prime, dementedly over-the-top example), until his Damascene conversion to the need for fiscal sense, of course, conveniently forgotten completely when appropriate. But anti-business….there’s nothing I could really find that was a silver bullet in this regard.
The real problem of course isn’t Ed Miliband or even most of the front bench: it’s the fact that the Labour Party, and by that I mean most of the membership, is aggressively anti-business. And do you know why? Because it’s sort of the raison d’etre of the entire party in the first place. You know, the whole socialism thing. So the fact that the Labour Party isn’t particularly pro-business – never mind “aggressively” so – is no real surprise.
This doesn’t mean that I think Tristram is being not altogether forthcoming when he describes his party thus. I’m sure he really believes it. Because he’s essentially, from what I can tell a – wait for it – liberal. As are many Labour MPs. They’ve just never noticed somehow that they aren’t in a particularly liberal party.
So best of luck to Tristram on his mission to make the Labour Party “aggressively pro-business”. However, he might want to take a peek at the vast majority of his own party behind him and see that most of them do not see “anti-business” as being pejorative in the first place, never mind see the need to fight back against the perception, electoral price to be paid or no electoral price to be paid.