More than 100 business executives running companies which together employ more than half a million people have come out in support of the Conservative Party. They are urging the electorate not to change course in the upcoming general election.
The bosses have praised Prime Minister David Cameron and his Chancellor George Osborne for pursuing “policies which have supported investment and job creation” in a letter to the Telegraph. In particular they highlight the “flagship” policy of lowering corporation tax to 20 percent, down from 28 percent under Labour.
Although the short letter makes no specific mention of Labour, it is being widely understood as a warning against ushering in a Labour government next month and will certainly undermine the economic credentials of team Miliband/Balls.
In a further blow to Labour, the 103 signatories include at least five former Labour backers. These include Sir Charles Dunstone, the chairman of Dixons Carphone and Talk Talk plc, and Duncan Bannatyne, a former star of Dragons’ Den. Also on the list is Peter Grauer, the chairman of Bloomberg, where Mr Miliband chose to launch his business manifesto on Monday.
The signatories count amongst their ranks senior executives from nine FTSE 100 companies, and from 21 FTSE 250 companies, as well as a number of small and medium sized businesses and entrepreneurs. Although not many are household names, their brands and products certainly are: retail companies Primark, Iceland, Ladbrokes, Costa Coffee, Ted Baker, Mothercare, Pizza Express and LK Bennett are all represented. So too brands including Kingsmill, Cobra beer, Robinsons, Tango and London Pride.
The letter reads:
We run some of the leading businesses in the UK. We believe this Conservative-led Government has been good for business and has pursued policies which have supported investment and job creation.
David Cameron and George Osborne’s flagship policy of progressively lowering Corporation Tax to 20% has been very important in showing the UK is open for business. It has been a key part of their economic plan.
The result is that Britain grew faster than any other major economy last year and businesses like ours have created over 1.85m new jobs.
We believe a change in course will threaten jobs and deter investment. This would send a negative message about Britain and put the recovery at risk.
The former Marks and Spencer CEO Stuart Rose told ITV that he had signed the letter because he believes current Tory policies take the economy in the right direction. “The policies we have in place today have worked for us. Its taken time to get traction but it is now working. Don’t lets divert from the policy, lets move forward, lets carry on doing what we’re doing,” he said.
George Osborne welcomed the letter. He said: “This is an unprecedented intervention in a British general election. Over a hundred business people employing over half a million people, leading some of Britain’s best known companies […] have spoken out. Their message couldn’t be clearer. We have a Conservative economic plan that is working and creating jobs and if we change course those jobs will be threatened and the recovery will be put at risk.”
Labour countered by claiming that the Conservatives are only on the side of big business who inevitably want to see tax cuts. Labour’s shadow secretary for work and pensions Rachel Reeves told Good Morning Britain: “It’s not surprising that big businesses want to see a cut in their corporation tax rate.
“But actually for the one and a half million businesses who have benefit from Labour’s cut and then freeze in business rates those businesses also need a voice and also need policies that will help them grow and succeed. So we make no apologies for being on the side of small businesses and ordinary workers. We want to ensure that this economic recovery benefits them as well.”
ONS figures published yesterday showed that the economy grew by 2.8 percent in 2014, up from forecasts of 2.6 percent. Average annual incomes are now back to pre-2010 levels, and household spending is also up 0.6 percent.
Mr Osborne said: “We’ve got a hat-trick of good news about the British economy and with 37 days to go the election it’s another sign that changing course would put recovery at risk.”
In further bad news for Labour, US investment firm BlackRock today warned that a Labour-SNP coalition after the election would create a constitutional crisis, and that failure to stick to Tory plans on deficit reduction would lead to higher mortgage rates for millions of homeowners.
In a twelve page briefing document titled “Ruling Britannia”, the firm said: “A Labour-led government reliant on SNP support for key votes would raise the spectre of a disunited kingdom. Imagine a similar situation in Spain if the central government were dependent on Basque or Catalan separatists, or a Canada beholden to the Parti Québécois.”
“Differences on public spending priorities could raise the constitutional stakes in a fractious parliament. The SNP favours an expansive approach to public spending, raising the prospects of increased government handouts and an even greater divide in regional benefits.
“Imagine a world where the SNP (and other regional parties) obtain more power over spending and borrowing in return for support on key votes. This could turn the UK into a sort of pre-crisis Spain, with mounting piles of regional debt to fund local spending. When fiscal stress hits, markets would look to the sovereign to bail out regional borrowers.”
“Whichever combination emerges, the new administration could preside over a constitutional crisis due to the SNP cohort at Westminster.”