A quorum of business leaders denounced Jeremy Corbyn’s economic policy at the Annual Conference of the CBI, the Confederation of British Industry – threatening to thwart Labour’s efforts of a pro-business re-branding.
The Labour leader’s presence at the conference was an attempt to prove that despite the regulatory and nationalisation plans under his leadership, Labour was open for partnership with the corporate sphere. However, big businesses failed to see the benefits. Carolyn Fairbain, CBI Director-General, remarked that Corbnyomics “sounds more command and control than partnership” with its “rigid employment rules and blunt public ownership”.
With the opposition in disarray amidst an internal revolution by the 1922 Committee, businesses have derided the lack of clarity and support over Brexit. This was Labour’s opportunity to win business back on its side, following two decades of support for Conservative liberalisation. Yet Corbyn, a man who encapsulates the socialist ideology that capitalist businessmen fear, failed to provide the light that corporations so desperately needed.
With Brexit looming on the horizon, maintaining free access to European markets is the core priority for UK businesses – a desire that May has all but guaranteed under her Brexit deal. Years of austerity and under-investment in public services have left the poorest behind as business continues to expand under corporate and income tax cuts. But instead of instilling hope that business can thrive under a Labour government, Corbyn only reinforced concerns that profits were best secured under the Conservatives. Corbyn noted the “frenzied reaction” to the idea of firms setting aside 1% of share capital annually to fund share purchases of up to £500 for employees – epitomising the ‘war on business’ that many executives predict.
Comment: Those executives are wrong. Appeasing business with quick profits through tax cuts masks the long term issues that line our economic horizon. With the richest 10% owning 45% of all wealth and taking home an income over 24 times greater than the bottom 10%, inequality has spiralled out of proportion. Over-burdened public services are unable to meet the needs of their citizens, whilst profits for big business continue their upward trend. Yet trickle-down economics has not worked. The UK economy needs public intervention to maintain business, innovation and investment without the devastating effects on inequality and poverty. Corbynomics does resemble this ideal; business thinks otherwise.
Until the corporate sphere begins to understand the long term impacts of the widening gulf in our society, compromise with Corbyn looks slim. Business must recognise that their success will be determined not only by an elite few, but by the performance of all British citizens in the national economy. Yet as seen throughout history, when the allies of the elite falter, the opposition can rise to the forefront. The Conservatives have had business within their grasp for the past two decades. Yet if the internal revolution grows stronger and Brexit grows messier, Labour’s chance to win back business may soon arise once more.