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Labour Drafts Plan to Better Meet Firms’ UK Investment Needs

(Bloomberg) -- Britain’s Labour opposition has pledged to remove political roadblocks to business investment, saying it will ensure greater consistency in policy making and more coordination across government if it wins the next election.

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Responding to a review of government relations with the private sector, Labour said it would end the “spin cycle of policy and policymakers,” engage better and communicate more clearly.

The strategy is aimed at raising business investment in the UK, which has lagged other nations for years, and sparking growth in the sputtering economy. Opposition leader Keir Starmer’s aim is to make Labour the “undisputed party of business,” wresting that reputation from the Conservatives.

Starmer is also trying to cement a double-digit lead in the polls and deliver growth at the “highest sustained level” in the Group of Seven advanced economies. A general election is expected to be called in the second half of the year.

Iain Anderson, a former adviser to the ruling Conservatives, conducted the review for Labour and spoke with more than 300 people and organizations. The plans were first reported by Bloomberg last week.

The key proposals are:

  • Better coordination in government because sometimes “the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing,” Anderson said. Regular communication between ministers and regulators would further help “join up policy.”

  • End the “stop-go” approach to policy and policymakers, including civil servants, to “foster a sense of continuity and embed knowledge across the institutions of state.”

  • Create open and transparent engagement with business so all opinions are heard “not just those with proximity to power.”

  • Implement the recently published Harrington Review on foreign direct investment, which recommended a strategic state-led business investment plan. The Conservative government has already pledged to introduce the proposals in full.

To demonstrate the party’s commitment to the issue, Labour has promised to hold a business and investment summit every year. The process will start this week with a conference in London for 400 senior industry figures attended by Starmer and his would-be Chancellor of the Exchequer Rachel Reeves.

Labour has been on a charm offensive with the City of London as it seeks to reassure business it can be a trusted partner ahead of the election. It is also taking advantage of the damage the Conservative government has done to its own credibility. Boris Johnson used a swear word to describe his thoughts about business when he was prime minister and his successor Liz Truss triggered a market meltdown with a plan for massive uncosted tax cuts.

Anderson’s review is “an important step in putting the voice of business at the heart of government,” said Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow business secretary. “It is my absolute conviction that the major economic issues before us – low investment, poor productivity, and low growth – can only be fixed with a better relationship between government and the private sector.”

Anderson, the founder of Cicero public relations, was the LGBT champion in Johnson’s government.

He said: “It is clear that the UK has incredible potential, but constantly changing government priorities alongside constantly changing structures for engagement have damaged trust and confidence. Business wants to see our country governed well again.”

Labour said the “principles of this report will inform how a Labour government will reform the way government and businesses interact.”

--With assistance from Katherine Griffiths, Emily Ashton and Andrew Atkinson.

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