Home » General election: 121 business chiefs sign letter backing Labour

General election: 121 business chiefs sign letter backing Labour

Dozens of business leaders have signed a letter endorsing the Labour Party’s economic plans ahead of the 4 July general election saying it is “time for a change”.

In a letter published in Tuesday’s Times newspaper, 121 founders, chief executives, and former leaders at a range of financial services, retail and manufacturing firms say Labour has changed and “wants to work with business” on long term growth.

It comes as shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves is due to deliver her first major speech of the election campaign to business supporters, including some former Conservative backers in the East Midlands later.

She is expected to say she will lead the most “pro-growth Treasury in our country’s history”.

Labour is borrowing from the Conservatives’ playbook in getting business leaders to endorse their economic plans.

Ahead of the 2015 election, 100 corporate leaders endorsed the Conservatives.

One of those, Malcolm Walker – the founder of supermarket chain Iceland – will now endorse Labour instead.

Other former Tory business letter signatories have told BBC News they will keep their counsel amid disappointment over Liz Truss’s mini-budget, the Brexit deal and a general expectation of a change of government.

Among those who have signed the letter in the Times is the TV chef and restaurateur Tom Kerridge, some chief executives of smaller companies, former Heathrow Airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye, JD Sports chairman Andrew Higginson and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

Few chief executives of the UK’s very largest FTSE 100 companies were among the signatories. Following the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU), many household names learned that taking sides in a key election period may annoy their customers.

It is also unclear how representative this group of Labour backers are of business in general and their sectors in particular.

But Ms Reeves believes this public display of support for Labour will demonstrate its credibility to the public.

Some Conservative business figures said there had been no effort similar to 2015 to organise a Tory business endorsement letter.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s advisers are known to be warning businesses about what they say is a move to French-style workers’ rights should Labour win.

Some top retailers have expressed concern about the plan, including a repeal of Conservative anti-strike laws.

But Mr Wales of Wikipedia told the BBC’s Today programme: “We’re not talking about an extreme left wing government by any means, we’re talking about a sensible, solid centrist government.”

He added that he is “very convinced” by Labour.

“I’ve talked to Rachel Reeves [and] talked to Keir. They’re not going to veer off into something completely mad, but they’re going to run the country in a much more sensible way.”

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Laura Trott said: “Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives have a clear plan that businesses can rely on.

“We took the bold action to deliver the biggest business tax cut in modern history”.

The Lib Dems told BBC News that businesses are “crying out for stability and certainty after years of the Conservatives’ chaos and mismanagement”.

“The Liberal Democrats would launch an industrial strategy to boost investment and reform the broken business rates system to support our high streets,” a spokesperson said.

The Green Party of England and Wales told the BBC it “would invest in the technologies we need to ensure a sustainable and secure future”.

“We need to ensure our economy works in a way that safeguards our climate and enables nature to flourish,” co-leader Adrian Ramsay said.

The Scottish National Party’s Drew Hendry accused Labour of “ignoring the most fundamental reason for the economic decline of the United Kingdom – Britain is broken and Brexit broke it”, adding: “Only the SNP will fight for a future back at the heart of the European Union.”

Plaid Cymru Treasury spokesman Ben Lake said Wales needs “economic plans to break the economic doom loop we’re in” and his party would “invest in the Welsh economy to drive growth and reduce inequality”.