Labour needs business community

David Shearer and Cunliffe will heed Tony Blair’s advice and embark on a ‘campaign’ to win over the business community.

A component of Shearer’s ‘reconnect with the community’ plan is likely to be a campaign to win the minds, if not the hearts, of businesses.

The first term of the Clark Labour government featured a massive effort to win over the business sector. It assured businesses that the Government would generally stay out of the economy and commerce. They were heartened by Labour’s desire to increase spending on export marketing and to allow government agencies to act with more commercial sense.

This reassurance gave Clark a clear path for her social agenda because the business community saw none of it as spearheading or hiding a socialist economic agenda.

The campaign is needed because the ferocity of Labour’s opposition to “asset sales” will make the business community nervous about Labour’s attitude to commerce.

Business support is a pathway to acceptability among centre-right voters. Tony Blair recently told a private meeting of UK Labour MPs that the party cannot afford to go into the 2015 election without the backing of major business figures.

Blair said Labour had to be “credible” with business leaders to convince the public that it is ready to take charge of the economy.

Business acceptability is also a pathway to party funding. By the last term of the Clark Government Labour was on speaking terms with very few business leaders. Financial support from businesses disappeared, leaving the Labour Party in dire financial shape

Shearer is a close follower of Blair’s career and style. Blair told the UK Labour MPs that ‘if you want to win, you have to be convincingly in the centre-ground.’

Shearer’s rationale for why Labour lost, for his “reconnect” plan, and for considering the role of Unions in the Labour Party, are pure Blair “centre-ground”.

The route is therefore open for businesses to approach Shearer, and Cunliffe, with their views on economic problems and solutions.  Labour will need more than platitudes to gain business support, so it must adopt some symbolic positions and policies. Business leaders who provide some realistic and tangible suggestions will be rewarded with some long term relationships with a future Labour Government.

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