We wrote this morning about Labour’s attempts to reach out to business through two separate initiatives. John Denham, business secretary, has pulled together 22 business advisers (including Lord Sugar and Nigel Doughty) to advise him on issues including regulation, industrial intervention and procurement. Mr Doughty and others – including Stephen Alambritis, formerly of the Federation of Small Businesses – are carrying out a separate review of small business.
In our interview this morning Mr Denham insisted that this did not mean that Labour needed to carry out a “prawn cocktail offensive” of the type launched in the early 1990s. Up to a point he is right: after 13 years in government Labour has banished the old perception that it is intrinsically anti-business. Also, insiders tell me that there are some large business donations in the pipeline which can be announced soon, contrary to our page 3 number on Monday showing that such gifts have dried up.
That doesn’t mean that the party will not need to reassure companies and entrepreneurs that it won’t drift back into a default position of hostility. As the reviews will take up to two years, policy will be enigmatic at best for some time.
This morning we cited a former Labour minister saying that meetings between Miliband and entrepreneurs had not gone particularly smoothly. (“He wasn’t able to establish a dialogue with the business people“). Denham and others insist this is nonsense and say the gatherings have gone well.