EU exit ‘scarier than Miliband’

Published: Friday 6th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Business leaders should be more fearful of the possibility of a British exit from the European Union under the Tories than the prospect of Ed Miliband in No 10, a Labour peer has insisted after a series of attacks on the party by senior corporate figures.

Lord Levy, formerly Tony Blair’s chief fundraiser who helped New Labour form close ties with business, said he was “saddened” by the attacks on Mr Miliband.

His comments came after the co-founder of Carphone Warehouse, who signed a letter supporting Labour when Mr Blair was leader, said he was “frightened” by the idea of the party taking power after May’s general election.

Sir Charles Dunstone, who was one of 63 signatories to a letter of support for Labour in 2005, told the Financial Times the business community felt “isolated” by Labour’s shift to the left.

“As a business person I’m frightened of an environment where there isn’t sufficient emphasis put on growing the economy to grow tax receipts to spend more money,” he said.

Lord Levy insisted that he had not given up on Labour working with business under Mr Miliband and attempted to play down the damage caused by attacks from leaders of large firms and shadow chancellor Ed Balls’s televised memory lapse over the name of the party’s small business adviser Bill Thomas.

The peer told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One: ” I’m somewhat saddened that people like Sir Charles Dunstone, whom I have great respect for, has said what he has said.

“Ed Balls, obviously, no one likes to have a touch of amnesia and forgetting Bill Thomas’s name was one of those things that happened.

“But really the key issue is where does Labour stand with business. Frankly I don’t think any political party can ignore business, they have to work with business, they have to work with a broad spectrum of society.”

He said he did not believe Labour were ignoring the concerns of business and added: “I do take it very seriously because I would like to think that I was able to have worked with many business leaders who very much supported the party when I was deeply involved with Tony Blair.

“But I do not give up on Ed Miliband and the Labour Party now working with business, because I do believe that they will work with business … I would be much more fearful running a large corporation of the Tory party getting out of Europe and having a referendum on Europe than I would on some of the comments that have been made by Labour.”

Tony Roulstone, the vice chairman of the Labour small business taskforce chaired by Mr Thomas, acknowledged the party had failed to get its positive message across to firms.

He told World At One that the message “hasn’t really been put forward consistently or in a strong enough way”.

Referring to the interview in which the shadow chancellor forgot Mr Thomas’s surname, he said: “I think Ed Balls tried on Newsnight and failed to get this message across … He did make the points about the policy on Europe, on small businesses, on diversity in banks and on skills.

“I do think that’s the weakness and maybe the Labour Party has to put more effort into communicating its positive message.”

Published: Friday 6th February 2015 by The News Editor

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