They say that repetition is the golden rule of political campaigning. As the famous Mandelson quote goes, “When you’re saying it for the hundredth time, they’re hearing it for the first time.” That was certainly the strategy adopted by Labour with the launch of their business manifesto this morning. This document, and Ed Miliband’s accompanying speech, did not unveil any new eye-catching policies, rather it was a repeat of some of Labour’s greatest hits.
Thus the key themes in the document are familiar ones: investment, supporting business, improving skills and making markets fairer. This document was not about launching new policy ideas, but rather about repeating Labour’s core messages to British business. To be fair, at this stage of the election cycle this is standard practice, and they will be saving any policy ‘rabbits’ for the launch of their full manifesto next week.
Ed Miliband has settled on a clear message to British business, which is that Labour will invest in the economy, support responsible and productive businesses, and ensure that the UK will remain in the EU. It is this last point in particular that Labour hope will be a winner for them with the business vote.
While the Conservatives are traditionally the party that champions British business, and receives their support accordingly, Labour believe that Europe now gives them an advantage in wooing business. The business vote tends to be far more pro-European membership than the general populace, and the Conservative stance on the EU referendum is not a particularly popular one with a lot of businesses. Hence Ed Miliband’s pledge that Labour “won’t risk jobs, exports and investment by threatening to leave the EU”.
So will this tactic be successful? The European argument is a vital one, as business loathes uncertainty, which is what a referendum campaign will provide in spades. However, if you talk to business leaders and employees about the upcoming election, and the party’s respective policy frameworks, Europe is certainly not the only topic they are concerned about. Taxation, infrastructure, regulation and skills are all issues that are equally important to the business community.
Indeed, the key task Labour face if they are to successfully court the business vote, will be to convince business leaders that their plans will result in a ‘business-friendly’ policy environment. This business manifesto contains much around investment and skills that will be attractive to business leaders and will help them to make this case. Whether this will be enough to outweigh business concerns over Labour’s aggressive stances on taxation and regulation is another matter entirely.