Let’s be clear from the outset – this is not a comfortable election campaign for business. Of the two men most likely to be our next Prime Minister, absent a political earthquake, neither have held out their hand to business. And with no prawn cocktail charm offensive coming from the largest parties, the tone has positioned business as part of the problem rather than the solution: from talk of nationalising ever larger parts of the economy through to the reminders of past comments to ‘eff’ business. This type of narrative understandably makes business nervous.
The last few days saw the publication of all of the main parties’ manifestos, helping us to piece together the reality of what the next government will focus on – whether that turns out to be a single party majority government or a party in a minority or coalition arrangement. London First has been busy scouring the pages of the manifestos to work out what they mean for business in London and beyond – click to read our summaries for the Conservative Party, Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats.
As always, the detail reveals a mixed bag, with each containing policies that give London First cause for both hope and concern. On the biggest issue of all, Brexit, we continue to make the case that No Deal must be avoided at all costs.
London First’s own manifesto headlined with a call for a greater commitment to the infrastructure investment and devolution needed to help the whole of the UK thrive, and it was great to see these themes reflected in the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem manifestos. The fact that these are issues on which there is now relative cross-party consensus should bode well — but this should not be about London versus the rest. All parts of the country stand to gain from a new wave of devolution, as they do from delivery of HS2, and whilst it is positive to see across the board commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail, this shouldn’t be at the expense of Crossrail 2, which was conspicuous by its absence from both the Conservative and Labour manifestos, although included by the Lib Dems.
Equally, London First has been unstinting in banging the drum for a step change from government to support the building of new homes to tackle London’s housing crisis. There is no doubt the message is getting through, with ambitious promises by the parties which now need to be matched by funding and detailed proposals to unleash further private sector investment and free up additional land. And more work needs to be done by all to ensure we have a future immigration system which allows business to access the talent it needs at all levels from across the globe by committing to a lower salary threshold of around £20K.
Business will be hoping that the end of the election campaign will mark a new phase in its relationship with the government. The next government — of whatever colour — won’t be able to deliver its manifesto without close collaboration with business.
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