Since Boris Johnson exclaimed ‘F***k business’ when asked about industry’s concerns over Brexit, the natural relationship between businesses and the Conservative Party has slightly unravelled.
But will a potential Labour government prove any more supportive to Britain’s beleaguered manufacturers and retailers?
The home delivery expert ParcelHero has been reading the runes of Labour’s shadow cabinet reshuffle to see if there is any indication an incoming Labour government would be more willing to support manufacturers and retailers. It says there are signs that business relationships could be prioritised.
ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T., says: ‘The Conservative Party has traditionally been seen as the party of small businesses, with low tax policies aimed at encouraging entrepreneurialism and business expansion.
‘However, many businesses are concerned “getting Brexit done” came with a huge price, in terms of new fees and red tape for UK exporters. Brexit aside, retailers are anxious about the return of sky-high business rates after a Covid “holiday”, and some businesses haven’t forgiven the Conservatives for the financial turmoil that followed Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s ill-advised mini-budget a year ago.
‘But would British businesses be any happier with a Labour government? What can we tell about its attitude to business from this week’s reshuffle?
Jonathan Reynolds – business and trade
‘Jonathan Reynolds has been appointed Labour’s new shadow business and trade minister. Reynolds was previously in charge of business and industrial strategy. He indirectly replaces Nick Thomas-Symonds, who was shadow minister for international trade and is now shadow minister without portfolio.
‘So what does this mean for business? Firstly, it’s good news that Labour has bumped-up the importance of business and trade. This was overdue, as it reflects changes in the Conservative government’s cabinet earlier this year when Kemi Badenoch became secretary of state for business and trade as well as retaining her existing role as secretary of state for international trade.
‘How does Jonathan Reynolds compare to Kemi Badenoch who is, undoubtedly, a rising star of the Conservative party?
‘Reynolds is thought to be a more moderate figure and was once described by “City AM”’s former Editor, Christian May, as “popular in the Square Mile”. That’s not something that could be said of every Labour trade shadow minister.
‘Usefully, in terms of businesses’ increased emphasis on greening supply chains, Reynolds has previously been shadow minister for energy and climate change, as well as shadow minister for transport, which will please logistics companies who would like to see more awareness of the role of supply chains in business.
Louise Haigh – transport
‘It’s probably reassuring for many businesses that Louise Haigh retains her role as shadow transport minister. Certainly, it’s been a revolving door within the Conservative cabinet. Haigh is a strong proponent of electric vehicle manufacturing and establishing new UK battery production plants. In June, she visited Shepherd Distribution in Sheffield and discussed rising costs, skills shortages and the lack of HGV facilities.
‘However, she is also a keen supporter of the re-nationalisation of railways. That’s not such a popular position among the growing number of rail freight operators who are helping to take the strain off Britain’s road network with increased rail haulage.
‘In terms of green business and transport polices, it’s interesting to see that a Labour “big-hitter”, former leader Ed Miliband, has moved to energy security and net zero. That’s likely to mean a renewed emphasis on green policies at a time when some people are concerned the government might we wobbling on its ambitious net zero plans.
‘Finally, it’s interesting to see that Steve Reed has been appointed shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, after the widely respected Jim McMahon stood aside due to ill health.
‘Reed is known as a long-standing advocate of climate action, and he helped establish the sustainable energy co-operative Repowering. On the other hand, he was one of the first opposition MPs to blame the loss of the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election earlier this summer on Labour mayor Sadiq Khan’s expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone.
‘Businesses looking to the reshuffle for pointers about a future Labour government’s attitude to business are unlikely to have seen anything to frighten the horses. Equally, however, there isn’t an inspirational figure who will be certain to fight their corner, come what may. For UK businesses, the best result is likely to be business as usual.
‘To discover more about the challenges facing British retail businesses, and how they are changing to adapt to new market conditions, see ParcelHero’s study on the High Street of the future.’