Labor attracted renewed interest from big business at its conference in Liverpool with the biggest turnout from businesses since 2010, including a firm owned by a major Conservative donor.
Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves were among senior politicians to speak at a crowded reception of more than 600 business leaders, executives and international guests on Monday night.
Union sources said there has been a significant increase in business interest in his conference as the party continues to perform well in the polls, with bookmakers putting Starmer’s chances of winning the upcoming election.
One of the companies showcasing its products at the conference is Wrightbus, owned by Tory donor Jo Bamford, with the company showcasing a hydrogen bus at Labor and Tory events this year.
Others with stalls in the main exhibition hall include Sainsbury’s, Google, Lloyds Banking and energy giant E.ON as people queued to enter a business reception. Labour’s business forum – where companies pay for access to events attended by shadow ministers and civil servants – sold out in July with more than 90 companies in attendance and ended up being oversubscribed by two to one.
Starmer, Reeves, the Shadow Chancellor; Jonathan Reynolds, the Shadow Business Secretary; and David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, all spoke at the reception for businesses, ambassadors and international visitors, which was sponsored by Bloomberg.
A senior Labor source said there had been a huge increase in business engagement this year. “They are really encouraged to see a sensible and functional opposition party. The vast majority are not political – there is just a sense of relief that there are adults in the room,” the source said.
“They have welcomed the commitment from Labor which they have not had before for quite a long time. The more the polls show that we are ahead, the more they reach out to us.
Starmer and Reeves have also hosted breakfasts, dinners and other events with presidents, CEOs and trade bodies over the past year as part of a concerted effort to reach out to businesses. They also plan to hold a business conference later in the year and have placed policies such as revising activity rates, promoting growth, investing billions in green energy and fiscal responsibility at the heart of their offer.
A City public affairs professional who had recently been close to the Tories said their company came to the Labor conference for the ‘first time in forever’ because it was ‘time to listen to what Labor has to say’. say”. The number of parties organized by lobbying firms also seems to have increased.
The party’s donations are increasingly coming from business as well as traditional union donors, with the help of Lord Levy, Tony Blair’s former fundraiser. Trevor Chinn, a financier and businessman, and Sir Victor Blank, the former chairman of Lloyds Banking Group, who both donated during the days of New Labor and Miliband, have started donating again money since Starmer became the leader. The party also this year accepted £250,000 from Fran Perrin, 43, the daughter of Lord Sainsbury de Turville, who is part of the supermarket dynasty.
While the Labor leadership thinks business interest in its conference is a good sign, not everyone was pleased to see an increased business presence at the four-day event in Liverpool.
A spokesperson for Momentum said it did not show Labor on the workers’ side. “With the Tories siphoning off money from the richest at the expense of the rest of us, while attacking trade union rights, Labor must show it is on the side of the working people.
“It is therefore both disappointing and counterproductive that the Labor leadership has banned picket visits to workers fighting for their livelihoods in a cost of living crisis, while instead attending a conference with the big business elite. Labor was founded to defend the interests of workers, not companies – that must be our guiding mission.
A Labor source said: ‘We have a mature relationship with business.
This does not necessarily mean that we will always agree, but the important
the fact is that we are doing the work to understand their point of view”
The Conservatives and Labor have also been criticized in the past for charging companies to attend their conferences where they have access to influential politicians.