For corporate leaders across Britain, the concerted effort by the Labour Party to engage with British businesses – both large and small – has been unmissable.
The party has eagerly invited views from business on how a Labour administration might work with them to further the party’s priorities once in government. Corporates, reading the polls, have been just as willing to offer those views.
But as our research shows, though the voting public acknowledges Labour’s efforts to court business, there is still some way to go to enhance their image as the party of business. Only a quarter of people believe Labour has become more ‘pro-business’ under Keir Starmer, with over two-thirds saying ‘no change’.
But Labour will take heart from the positives in this report. Their message resonates with the voters that matter most at the next election. But they still have a long way to go to win the next election and they know it – ’complacency’ remains the dirtiest word inside Labour HQ.
As such, the appetite from Labour to engage with the business community is only going to increase. This presents opportunities for businesses of all stripes to build meaningful relationships with the Party.
Each company will need to pursue their own unique approach, but a few broad themes apply to all those seeking to have their voice heard.
Firstly, show that you can be an enabler. Labour’s five missions will be the ‘North Star’ for policy making in the party. It knows it will need private sector input to help reach their ambitious energy goals or to hit its growth targets. But it doesn’t know the needs of every individual business in Britain, nor what the government could do to help them succeed. Businesses must show, with evidenced-backed proposals, how their ideas for regulatory, legislative or tax reform would enable Labour to realise its missions.
Second, how your business operates matters. Labour talks of being “pro-worker, pro-business” because it is politically popular but as importantly, because it believes in it – the clue is in the party’s name. Your business must be able to demonstrate what you are doing for your employees, whether through pay, terms and conditions or progressive workplace initiatives like menopause or grandparental leave. Labour wants businesses to succeed but for the benefit of a wider group of stakeholders, not just shareholders.
Third, manage your expectations. While CEOs may expect they deserve a meeting with the most senior parts of the party’s leadership, in many cases, it is simply unrealistic to expect to get face time with Keir Starmer or Rachel Reeves – this is likely to be reserved for the biggest and most high-profile of businesses. But Labour is a big, complex organisation, and ensuring that your organisation has good relationships with wider stakeholders within the party is essential.
Whether it be local councillors or MPs in your area, the shadow ministers in your ‘home’ department, or indeed relationships with the trade unions you work with, building relationships across the party will help you navigate its complicated structures and help you tell the story of how you can enable Labour’s missions.
Finally, show – don’t just tell. Showing how your business is making an impact beyond the bottom line will grab the attention of the party at all levels. That could include educating Labour figures about world-leading technologies you are developing, demonstrating commitment to supporting local communities, or showcasing what you are doing to combat climate change and improve environmental standards.
Engaging with Labour will be new for many in the corporate world. It’s nearly 15 years since the business community has paid the party any real attention, after all. But there are opportunities for Britain’s businesses and organisations of all shapes and sizes to forge closer links with the party as they continue to develop their manifesto, and help set the climate for success under a future Labour government.
The survey was conducted online, between 1-3 March 2023, among n=3000 adults in Great Britain. The fieldwork was conducted by Opinium. It was weighted to be politically and nationally representative. Full tables can be found here from Wednesday 28 March 2023.