Which Business Leaders Are Backing Labour?

Labour has gone out of its way to present itself as business friendly. But, are business leaders welcoming this unlikely union? 

Christopher Johnson 2 July, 2024 | 10:12AM
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Sir Keir Starmer UK Main

As the general election swiftly approaches, all polls indicate Keir Starmer will finish the week as the UK's new prime minister.

Though it is not the only element of the former director for public prosecution's campaign to win over the country, the Labour leader's efforts to cosy up to business have been a central part of what he himself calls a "transformed" party.

Spearheading this effort is Rachel Reeves, the Party's shadow chancellor. A former Bank of England economist and chess champion, she has fought back from a potentially-damaging plagiarism row to convince City leaders that Labour should be the square mile's party of choice in 2024.

As it stands, there is substantial evidence the plan has worked.

At the beginning of this year, Richard Walker, the former Conservative Donor and chair of the Iceland supermarket chain, ditched his allegiance to the Tories for Labour.

Walker said that the Labour leader showed "compassion and concern for the less fortunate" and an awareness of the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on Iceland’s customers.

The British businessman also said Starmer "demonstrated [leadership] in the way in which he has transformed his own party by ruthlessly excising the Corbynite extremism that made Labour unelectable in 2019."

He also argued that the Conservatives had abandoned "basic conservative principles" while the Labour Party under Starmer had become more aligned with his values.

Which Other Business Leaders Back Labour?

John Caudwell, the Phones 4u founder, also said he was open to donating to Labour in future. He believes that those next in government must make "brave decisions" to promote growth, and has said he believes members of the shadow cabinet are up to the task.

"Any party that can gain power and do what I know we need to do for Britain, I could become a supporter of that party. [I] will support what I think is right commercially for Britain," he said.

That's not a completely ringing endorsement – he's saying Labour could not convince him to donate before Thursday's election, but it could win his donation before the next one.

Others have indicated their support too. Last month 120 leaders and investors came out in support of the Labour Party. In a joint statement they said that the UK economy had been "beset by instability, stagnation, and a lack of long-term focus."

Among them is a former Tory business champion.

Iain Anderson, chair of corporate affairs and lobbying company H/Advisors Cicero Group, has publicly advertised his Conservative leanings for many years, and between 2021 and 2022 had served as the government's LGBTQ business champion – a role he held part-time within the government's Equality Office. However, he resigned from the role over the then-government's decision not to ban trans conversion "therapy".

"We are looking for a government that will partner fiscal discipline with a long-term growth strategy, working in partnership with the private sector to drive innovation and investment to build digital and physical capital and fix our skills system," the signatories of the letter said.

"Labour has shown it has changed and wants to work with business to achieve the UK's full economic potential. We should now give it the chance to change the country and lead Britain into the future."

Other signatories included John Holland-Kaye, the former chief executive of Heathrow Airport, and Charles Randell, the former chair of the Financial Conduct Authority.

Are FTSE 100 Companies Getting Involved?

However, only one sitting chair of a FTSE 100 company signed the letter, Andrew Higginson is the chair of JD Sport’s, and his sole representation of the UK's blue chip index led some to dismiss the letter as lightweight.

The remainder of the FTSE 100 companies are staying well clear of endorsing political candidates in this election.

The Financial Times contacted all 99 remaining companies, and, of the 58 that responded, 34 said they were not supporting any party. 24 declined to comment.

Among the 34 were companies ranging from AstraZeneca (AZN) to BAE Systems (BA).

What Would Labour do to Taxes and Finance?

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Securities Mentioned in Article

Security NamePriceChange (%)Morningstar
Rating
AstraZeneca PLC12,260.00 GBX1.32Rating
BAE Systems PLC16.52 USD1.02

About Author

Christopher Johnson  is data journalist at Morningstar

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