Closed General Election: Party leaders court British business at CBI conference — as it happened

Johnson, Corbyn And Swinson Speak At CBI Annual Conference 2019

Conservatives postpone plans to cut corporate tax rate. Liberal Democrats and Scottish National party lose legal bid to allow leaders to feature in ITV debate. Sterling boosted by strong Tory polling.


Welcome along

Good morning and welcome to Monday’s coverage of the general election. We will have news, analysis and comment from the FT’s team throughout the day.

The economy is in focus today, with Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson both due to address business leaders at the CBI’s annual conference in London. Full coverage to come.

As ever, do let us know your thoughts and anything you would like us to cover in the comments section below.


Weekend catchup

The Conservatives focused on immigration over the weekend, including a promise to introduce a points-based system and remove the preferential treatment of EU migrants over welfare and charging for access to healthcare. The party refused to set an annual target for immigration numbers, but said it would create an “equal system”. Business groups expressed concerns.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the party would not “turn its back” on migration, and still expected a large amount of movement between the UK and EU after Brexit.

With one weekend poll showing the Tories have opened up a 17-point lead, Mr Corbyn will be hoping to reset the narrative this week in the election’s first TV debate, and his party’s subsequent manifesto launch.

The FT reported yesterday that Labour has devised what is expected to be the most leftwing party manifesto in a generation.

But of course, only one story really cut through this weekend, as Prince Andrew’s attempt to clear his name over abuse allegations spectacularly backfired.


Focus on business

Corporate Britain has often felt ignored during the last three and a half years as British politics fixates on Brexit, but this morning a trio of party leaders are lining up to woo big business.

Prime minister Boris Johnson, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson will all address the CBI’s annual conference in London.

• The employers’ organisation has fired repeated warnings over the damage stalling progress in the economy over the past three years, an issue which Mr Johnson is expected to address head on.

• Outlining a range of tax breaks, Mr Johnson will tell the CBI: “Let’s not beat around the bush, big business didn’t want Brexit. You made that clear in 2016 and this body said it louder than any other… But what is also clear is that what you want now — and have wanted for some time — is certainty.”

• Mr Corbyn will use his own speech to the CBI conference to outline reforms to the apprenticeship levy to help tackle climate change.

• Ms Swinson will pitch the Lib Dems as the “natural party of business” because they want to stop Brexit.


Labour to push on with ‘shares for workers’ scheme

Jim Pickard and Laura Hughes report:

Labour’s election manifesto will include plans to force companies to hand 10 per cent of their shares to workers over 10 years despite a business backlash, according to people familiar with the document.

The manifesto, due to be unveiled on Thursday, will also include a windfall tax on oil companies as part of its attempts to shift the UK towards a low-carbon economy, the Financial Times has established.

It highlights how Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has devised what is expected to be the most leftwing party manifesto in a generation.

Labour is seeking to shift the election debate away from Brexit, where its position — offering a second referendum — has failed to resonate with most Leave and Remain voters.

Read the full story here.


Sterling hits two-week highs

The pound rose to its highest level in more than two weeks on Monday morning, as opinion polls showed the Tory party has widened its lead over Labour.

“Weekend opinion polls show the Tories extending their lead over Labour to the 15-17% range – which is giving the pound a boost in early Europe,” said ING’s foreign exchange strategists.

A fresh poll released on Monday morning by Survation showed the Conservatives held a 14-point lead on 42 per cent, with Labour on 28 per cent.

The Tory strategy to squeeze the Brexit party has been startlingly effective, with Nigel Farage’s party polling just 5 per cent.


Why markets like the current polling

Many investors and analysts suggest that a Tory majority would boost the pound as it would at least offer a clear way ahead over Brexit, and remove the chance of a no-deal exit. Any other result throws open the chance of a market-friendly softer or cancelled Brexit, but would come with considerable uncertainty.

“The scale of the Tories lead in the polls and with current momentum moving in their favour, it is making market participants more confident that they will be able to form a majority government after the election and pass Boris’ Brexit deal,” said Lee Hardman, a currency analyst at MUFG.

“An end to the Brexit deadlock which has dogged parliament would open the door for cable to rise back above 1.3000 and towards the mid-1.3000’s.”


Boris Johnson will struggle to pledge big UK tax cuts, say experts

The FT’s economics editor Chris Giles writes that the prime minister risks breaching his new budgetary rules with large election giveaways.

Boris Johnson will struggle to promise big tax cuts in the Conservative party election manifesto if he wants to live within new Tory budgetary rules, according to public finance experts.

A combination of little existing budgetary leeway, recent spending increases and future pressure on public services left limited room for tax cuts, said the experts.

Their views conflict with thinking inside the Treasury, where officials believe it is possible to fund some but far from all of the prime minister’s favoured tax cuts while still running a surplus on the current budget — the difference between government tax receipts and day-to-day public spending.

Chancellor Sajid Javid announced new fiscal rules this month under which he would seek to balance the current budget by 2022-23.

Read Chris’s full story here.


Papers lead on interview with Prince Andrew over Epstein

An interview with Prince Andrew on BBC’s Newsnight, broadcast over the weekend, leads the papers this morning. The Times headlined the story: Defiant duke stands by ‘car crash’ TV interview. The paper adds that the prince insists the questioning over friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, the late financier and paedophile, was a success despite the backlash. The Guardian went with: Apologise to Epstein’s victims now, prince told.

The arch Conservative broadsheet Daily Telegraph says Prince Andrew is under fire from Buckingham Palace, adding that the Queen did not give her blessing to the interview, citing royal sources.

The Financial Times leads with violence in Hong Kong and Saudi Aramco trimming its fundraising goal in the latest hitch for Saudi Arabia’s state oil flotation.

The Guardian says leading scientists and former government advisers have condemned the Conservatives’ record on tackling the climate crisis. Sir David King, the government’s special representative for climate change from 2013-2017, said he would give the Tories three or four out of 10 for their record, the paper reports.

The Times has a story that initiation rituals put students off university sport.

Boris to trigger a Brexit boom, says the Express, as it reports on the £1bn a year business tax cuts the prime minister has announced that will “turbocharge” the economy. The splash is next to a picture of Boris Johnson with the headline: PM keeps calm and curries on, a reference to Mr Johnson’s visit to a Sikh temple in south London at the weekend.


The Brexit disruptors: beyond left and right

Political insurgents like Rory Stewart, Chuka Umunna and Claire Fox are trying to shake up the UK’s general election and tempt people away from the two main political parties.

The FT’s Miranda Green weighs up whether they can transform traditional politics


Big business and the Tory party

Boris Johnson’s notorious use of the phrase “f*ck business” in response to corporate concerns about a no-deal Brexit became a symbol of the strains between business leaders and the Conservative party last year.

The prime minister has since sought to bury the hatchet with senior executives, and later this morning will seek to woo big business at the CBI’s annual conference with a pledge to reduce business rates and provide a series of tax breaks worth around £1bn a year.

Still, his speech comes less than a day after business groups, including the CBI itself, expressed concerns over Conservative party plans to cut immigration if they win the election.

The CBI yesterday said the Tory plans could lead to skills shortages in key industries.

Carolyn Fairbairn, the business group’s director-general, told Sky News that certain sectors including construction needed access to workers at “all” skill levels.

We need people to come and help us renew our economy. It’s not just brightest and best, it’s people at all skill levels across our economy that we need.


Emoticon CBI warns both parties over ‘extreme ideology’

Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI’s director-general, has told both major parties that confidence in Britain is faltering ahead of the election as she called for a return to evidence based policy-making.

Dame Carolyn opened her group’s annual conference with a thinly veiled warning to both the Conservative and Labour parties, as she said “extreme ideology” is a “danger that could get in the way of a bright future”.

On the right, she said a preference for a no-deal Brexit is driven by a “zeal” for the wholesale deregulation of the UK economy which is not what business wants.

[British firms] accept Brexit and will do all they can to make it work. But when no-deal becomes an ideology of its own, seemingly intent on ignoring the impact on jobs and livelihoods, then we have a problem.

Dame Carolyn said Labour’s plans to renationalise swathes of British industry are “at least as damaging”.

Its most recent proposed nationalisation of part of BT was a bolt from the blue and has sent a chill through boardrooms at home and abroad.

“These ideologies from both sides are causing great harm to our economy,” she said.

And with that grim warning, over to Boris Johnson who is now speaking…


Johnson promises business leaders a ‘tidal wave of investment’

Jim Pickard, the FT’s chief political correspondent, reports:

Boris Johnson, speaking at the CBI conference at the Millennium Dome, told delegates that a majority Tory government would “get Brexit done”, clearing the way for a “pent-up tidal wave of investment” into the UK.

Mr Johnson insisted that his deal would give complete certainty in terms of the UK’s relationship with the EU, playing down concerns that Britain faces a cliff-edge if it is unable to reach a fresh trade deal with Brussels by the end of next year.

All we need is nine more seats and we can deliver Brexit in January…and then unleash the potential of the whole country and get on with our One Nation agenda

The prime minister told the conference that his post-university ambition was to be an industrialist making “beautiful hand-made kitchen tiles”, only for the idea to fall at the first hurdle.

I’m lost in admiration for all those who have made a success of their businesses.

He told delegates that he did not want an election in December but saw it as the only way to clear a path through the blockage of Parliament, dubbing it a “Dyno-Rod election”.

The alternative would be a Corbyn-Sturgeon Labour-SNP coalition that would enable further uncertainty through two more referendums, he said. “Is he (Corbyn) for Leave? Is he for Remain? It’s a mystery”.


Emoticon Tories delay plan to cut corporation tax

Jim Pickard reports:

Boris Johnson has just announced that Tory plans to cut corporation tax further to 17 per cent have been postponed in order to prioritise public spending instead. He says that this will free up “£6bn that we can put into the priorities of the British people including the NHS”.

The prime minister points out that corporation tax has already fallen from 28p to 19p in the pound since 2010.

“The alternative is Jeremy Corbyn who would whack it back up to the highest levels in Europe,” he says.


FT analysis: Tory tax pledge

The Conservative party has always insisted that cutting corporation tax should ultimately lead to bigger tax receipts because of the Laffer curve, Jim Pickard reports.

Economist Arthur Laffer theorised that a cut in tax rates will eventually increase tax revenue due to the positive impact on economic output.

Today’s comments from Boris Johnson, that keeping corporation tax at 19p will lead to £6bn of extra public spending, flies in the face of those previous comments.

Kate Andrews, associate director at the Institute of Economic Affairs, a free market think tank, called the announcement a “mistake”.

Corporation tax is a stealth tax on workers. Not to mention bad for competition, innovation and attracting business and investment from all over the world.

The response to the corporation tax decision has been fairly muted – at least from today’s hosts.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, said: “Postponing further cuts to corporation tax to invest in public services could work for the country if it is backed by further efforts to (address) the costs of doing business and promote growth.”

She added that “action at home must be accompanied by the right type of Brexit certainty”. “That means a new relationship with the EU that maintains frictionless trade, keeps close regulatory alignment and supports our services sector.”


FT poll tracker update

As Jeremy Corbyn begins his own address to the CBI, a reminder that the pound is trading at two-week highs today as traders react to polling which shows the Tories extending their polling lead over Labour.

Today’s FT poll tracker has just been published. It shows the Conservatives now hold a 13-point lead over Labour.

Our tracker combines all voting intention surveys published by major British pollsters. The trend line uses only the most recent poll from each pollster and weights them according to when they were conducted.


Corbyn: ‘Nonsense’ to say I am anti-business

More from Jim Pickard at the CBI:

Jeremy Corbyn has insisted that Labour’s manifesto will not represent an assault on the business world, despite the party’s plans for mass nationalisations and big tax hikes on executives and large companies.

“It is sometimes claimed that I am anti-business. This is nonsense,” he said in his speech to the conference.

It is not anti-business to be anti-poverty pay…it is not anti-business to want prosperity in every part of our country, not just the financial centres of the City of London.

The Labour leader tried to play up elements of his party’s plans for greater borrowing to improve Britain’s infrastructure and skills. Under Labour the government would neither try to “do everything” but nor would it sit back and leave everything to markets either, he argued.

You’re going to see more investment than you’ve ever dreamed of….world-leading infrastructure…the fast reliable transport links you’ve always wanted….the certainty of a customs union and access to the single market….you and your business have so much to gain from a Labour government.

That did not amount to an attack on the foundations of a modern economy, he said.

CBI boss Carolyn Fairbairn said it was “an incredibly good thing” that Mr Corbyn was prepared to come and address business leaders, despite some of their differences on policy.


How the parties now stand on corporation tax

Torsten Bell, chief executive of think tank the Resolution Foundation, has shared this graph over both major parties’ plans for corporation tax.

He said: “The gap between Labour and the Tories on corporation tax just got quite a bit smaller – but it’s still on the pretty huge side.”


Lib Dems move into spotlight with Swinson to address CBI

With keynote speeches from the Conservative and Labour leaders now out of the way, it will be the turn of Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat leader, to address the CBI this afternoon.

Ms Swinson will look to build on the Liberal Democrats’ claim to be the country’s “party of business”, a message anchored by its staunchly anti-Brexit stance.

The party has sought to woo business with tax reform, digital networks and strong competition policy. Last week, Ms Swinson’s deputy, Ed Davey, pledged to replace the UK’s £30bn business rates system.

But across town from the CBI conference, a more pressing event for the Liberal Democrats is playing out at the Royal Courts of Justice.

The party is, along with the Scottish National party, challenging the decision of ITV to exclude smaller parties from tomorrow night’s head-to-head debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn. A decision by the court is expected later today.

ITV has said it will include smaller parties in tomorrow night’s proceedings through a “live interview-based programme” immediately afterwards, in which the leaders of other parties could comment on the two-way head-to-head debate and set out their own stalls.

But the Lib Dems have insisted Ms Swinson should be involved in the main event, arguing not to do so “fundamentally disrespects” pro-Remain voters.


Conservatives’ limited room for manoeuvre

Boris Johnson has postponed Conservative party plans to cut UK corporation tax to 17 per cent next year in order to prioritise public spending.

The decision demonstrates the lack of any war chest available to the Tories for tax cuts and public spending commitments since they committed to balancing the government’s books excluding capital investment this month, Jim Pickard and Chris Giles write.

Projections of the current balance show it to be barely in the black in 2022-23, leaving very limited room for giveaways in this election.

Against this unfavourable public finances backdrop, Boris Johnson pointed out that corporation tax had already fallen from 28p to 19p in the pound since 2010, when the Conservatives went into coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The Tories had announced in 2016 that they would reduce the level further to 17p in 2020.


Tax Man Mr Johnson?

Nick Macpherson, the former Treasury top civil servant, says the decision to shelve cuts to corporation tax means Boris Johnson’s government would be collecting “more of the nation’s income in tax than any previous Tory government.”

He tweeted:

Kate Andrews, associate director of the free-market think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said the decision was a mistake that would be “bad for competition, innovation and attracting business and investment from all over the world.”


Scottish nationalists set to squeeze Tories

The FT’s Anne-Sylvaine Chassany has been in Stirling to assess how the Scottish National party could benefit from Conservative disaffection with Boris Johnson north of the border.

The Tories were the natural home of Scotland’s centrist voters who opposed rising Scottish nationalism — until Mr Johnson came along.

In Scotland, where 62 per cent voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, Mr Johnson’s policies could cost the Conservatives most of the 13 seats they secured in the 2017 election — and threaten the parliamentary majority the prime minister needs to pass the Brexit deal he negotiated with Brussels.

Tom Devine, history professor at the University of Edinburgh, said:

Boris Johnson is the best recruiting sergeant for Scottish nationalism that the SNP have had since Margaret Thatcher. His persona, his background, the fact that people regard him as duplicitous and a phoney, none of that goes down well in Scotland.

You can read Anne-Sylvaine’s full piece here.


Swinson: Liberal Democrats ‘the natural party’ of business

Jim Pickard reports:

Jo Swinson, addressing the CBI conference for the first time, said that only the Liberal Democrats could stop Brexit in its tracks – delivering what she calls a “Remain bonus” to be spent on public services.

The Lib Dem leader questioned Mr Johnson’s claim that after leaving the EU, the UK could swiftly focus on economic growth.

“We need shovel-ready projects, we need the skills and the people to make them happen. Leaving the EU makes all of that so much more difficult.”

The Lib Dems would be pro-business in government and believed in property rights, in contrast to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, she said. Her party also believed unambiguously in freedom of movement – in contrast to rival parties.

“If you want to get Brexit done you are not the party of business.”

Ms Swinson repeated her insistence that her party would never help to put Mr Corbyn or Mr Johnson in Downing St. Mr Corbyn was personally in favour of Brexit, she claimed.


Emoticon Former Tory minister in ‘substantial’ Lib Dem donation

Laura Hughes writes:

A former Conservative minister has made a “substantial” donation to the Liberal Democrats as fears mount among traditional Tory supporters that Boris Johnson could take Britain out of the EU without a trade deal in December 2020.

Timothy Sainsbury, who served as a trade minister under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, has donated an undisclosed amount to the campaign of Sam Gyimah, the candidate in his home constituency of Kensington in central London.

His brother David Sainsbury, former chairman of the eponymous supermarket chain, gave more than £2m to the anti-Brexit Lib Dems in the months before the 2016 EU referendum.

Here is how the constituency voted last time around, when Labour won the seat by only 20 votes.


Jo Swinson promises to scrap business rates if elected

The Lib Dems have pledged to replace business rates with a commercial landowner levy if elected.

Their leader, Jo Swinson, said the party is committed to small businesses, who are “the engine of the British economy”.

“It will shift the burden from the tenant to the landlord, so we can breathe new life into our high street.”

The Tories have promised a review of this tax if they are in government, but Ms Swinson said “we have seen enough of promises of reviews of business rates”.

Business rates are a tax based on rental values of the property that businesses occupy. There can be complex reductions, but generally they are around 50 per cent of the market rent. While it is one of the biggest sources of government revenue, a recent Parliamentary inquiry found the UK had the highest level of this kind of tax in the OECD group of wealth nations.


Why Johnson’s corporation tax move makes sense

In what is arguably the first big U-turn of the election campaign, the prime minister said today he would postpone Tory plans to cut corporation tax from 19 per cent to 17 per cent.

The money saved, around £6bn, will instead go on funding the National Health Service.

Some business leaders won’t like it but it’s not hard to see why Mr Johnson has gone down this road, writes James Blitz, the FT’s Whitehall editor.

First, the Tories have already cut corporation tax significantly and there is no good political argument for it to be further reduced.

Dan Neidle, tax partner at Clifford Chance, told the Financial Times this morning: “I have come across literally nobody in business who was calling for the corporation tax rate to drop to 17 per cent.”

Second, Mr Johnson clearly has a lot more to do to counter Labour’s claim that the Tories have undermined the NHS.

Last week, Labour pledged to give the health service £5.5bn more a year by 2023-24 than the £20.5bn the Conservatives have promised. Tory strategists clearly thought Labour’s pledge needed neutralising — and today’s announcement by Mr Johnson does precisely that.

Third, Mr Johnson needs to try to fend off Labour’s general argument that the Tories are too close to big business and are too dismissive of public services.

This latest move helps Mr Johnson to counter Labour’s claim, showing the Tories do not always put their business allies first. It will not change the political weather very much, however. The state of the NHS still remains a huge challenge — if not the biggest — for the Conservatives.

Read James’s latest Brexit Breifing here


How important is the corporate tax rate for business investment?

The UK’s main corporate tax rate currently sits at 19 per cent — below the OECD average of 23.5 per cent.

The Conservative party had planned to drop this to 17 per cent next year, but today, Boris Johnson said this cut will be postponed. Labour want to gradually increase it to 26 per cent.

But how important a factor is the rate of corporate tax when it comes business investment in the UK?

The answer, it seems, is that while a competitive tax rate matters for business investment, decision makers are more influenced by certainty (or the lack thereof) around economic policy — a factor exacerbated by the lack of clarity over Brexit.

Professor Costas Milas of Liverpool University’s School of Management has crunched the numbers for the FT. In the charts below he compares:

(1) The spread between the UK corporate tax rate and the OECD average — ie: how competitive the rate is;

(2) UK economic policy uncertainty — a metric based on discussion of policy uncertainty in 10 UK newspapers compiled into an index by US academics.

Professor Milas finds a stronger correlation between investment and policy uncertainty than between investment and the rate of corporate tax — implying clarity matters more for investors than lower taxes.

Assuming that policy uncertainty and corporate taxes affect future business investments (I assume here a one-year horizon), we see that policy uncertainty has (in terms of correlation) more of an adverse impact (compared with corporate policy) on business investments.



Lib Dems and SNP lose ITV debate challenge

The FT’s law courts correspondent Jane Croft reports:

The High Court has ruled that an election debate due to be televised by ITV on Tuesday can go ahead without the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party being represented.

The two parties had brought a legal challenge against the broadcaster’s refusal to include their leaders in the debate on Tuesday, which is being held between prime minister and Tory leader Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party.

The SNP and Liberal Democrats had argued that excluding them from the televised debate was unlawful and unfair to them and the electorate.

However two High Court judges ruled on Monday afternoon that the decision to schedule Tuesday’s debate was a matter for the editorial judgement of ITV and “no arguable breach of the Broadcasting Code is shown”.

It found that the editorial judgement was one “properly and reasonably open to ITV.”

The judges said that the claims were “not realistically arguable” and the debate between Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn can lawfully go ahead on Tuesday.


Election factcheck: Housing figures

As part of our rolling election coverage, Federica Cocco on the FT’s stats team will be delving into some of the claims made by the parties as the campaign progresses. Here, she takes a look at Boris Johnson’s assertions on Tory achievements in housing.

The prime minister claimed at the CBI conference today that “The Conservative government built more council homes in one year than the Labour party did in 13 years.”

He also said the government had built a total of 220,000 homes in the last year, adding subsequently that that was “the biggest number of homes built in this country for every year in the last 31 years except one”.

Neither claim stands up to scrutiny, however.

Statistics published by the Office for National Statistics show that the Labour government built a very low number of local authority homes: 6,410 from 1997/98 to 2009/10.

While these numbers subsequently grew under the coalition government and the Conservative administration, they never reached numbers higher than 4,000 in a single year.

The second claim also appears not to hold water.

There were four financial years in which total housebuilding exceeded last year’s figure of 204,000 permanent dwellings.

The Conservative party did not respond to a request for comment from the FT.

The FT is keeping an eye on claims made by the parties during this election campaign. If you spot a claim that you don’t think sounds right, please email: federica.cocco@ft.com


IFS: Look beyond the headline corporate tax rate

Chris Giles, the FT’s economics editor, reports:

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has weighed into the debate over corporation tax and whether tax cuts raise revenues.

Remember, Boris Johnson said they did when campaigning for the Conservative Party leadership, but on Monday he claimed he would have £6bn a year to spend because he was no longer going to cut the corporation tax rate as planned from 19 per cent to 17 per cent next April.

Well, the IFS verdict is in and it says logic of Mr Johnson in November trumps his logic in June.

The reason tax revenues went up when the headline rate was cut between 2010 and 2017, according to Stuart Adam, a senior research economist at IFS, is that there were many other stealthy tax increases to corporation tax.

“The headline rate is not all that matters,” he said, adding that one of the main reasons for an increase in revenues was a natural recovery in company profitability after the financial crisis and recession of 2008-09.

The IFS has also produced a handy chart, outlining all of the stealthy corporate tax increases from 2010 to 2019 to highlight the point.


Markets roundup: Stocks mixed as uncertainty lingers

Anna Gross, FT markets reporter, writes:

European stock markets mainly closed lower today as doubts festered over whether the US will impose tariffs on EU carmakers.

The French Cac ended the day down 0.2 per cent, while the German Dax was down 0.3 per cent. The FTSE 100 in London bucked the trend, adding 0.1 per cent, leaving the composite Stoxx 600 flat.

Across the Atlantic, the S&P remained unchanged from its Friday heights after a CNBC media report cast doubt over whether “phase one” of a trade deal between the US and China would be reached.

Earlier, in Asian trade, the Hang Seng added 1.4 per cent despite escalating tensions in Hong Kong, after economic data confirmed that the region had dipped into a recession, renewing hopes that the government would initiate a stimulus package.

In currencies, the pound was 0.5 per cent higher at a two-week high of $1.2966 against the dollar, after an opinion poll showed the Conservative party widening its lead over Labour. Against the euro it added 0.3 per cent to €1.1701.

Analysts have suggested that a Tory majority would boost the pound as it would offer clarity on the Brexit question and remove the chance of a no-deal exit.


What happened today?

The main event of the day was the Confederation of British Industry’s annual conference in Greenwich, which saw leaders of the main parties set out their commercial policy stalls in a bid to woo business leaders.

Boris Johnson was up first, making the case that a Conservative government would “get Brexit done” and so open the way for a “pent-up tidal wave of investment” into the UK.

Next to make his pitch was Jeremy Corbyn, who insisted neither he nor his party were anti-business, despite plans for mass nationalisations and big tax hikes on executives and large companies.

The Lib Dems’ Jo Swinson later told delegates that hers was now the natural “party of business” and the only party that would stop Brexit in its tracks – delivering a “Remain bonus” to be spent on public services.

The prime minister also said he would put off a planned cut to the corporation tax rate if re-elected and direct the gains towards the NHS – prompting a wide ranging debate on corporate tax policy.

On the other side of London, meanwhile, the High Court ruled against the Lib Dems and the SNP after they brought a legal challenge against ITV for opting not to include their leaders in a televised debate tomorrow.

That decision means tomorrow’s opening campaign debate will go ahead as a two-way face-off between Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn.

We will have coverage of the debate (and doubtless plenty more electoral drama) here on Election Central tomorrow.


Hasta mañana

We are going to leave it there for this evening. Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts throughout the day.

In store tomorrow is the first leaders’ debate of the campaign — on ITV at 8pm. Today’s High Court ruling means it will run as planned in the form of a head-to-head contest between Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and the Conservatives’ Boris Johnson.

We will be covering the debate live on Election Central tomorrow evening and will also be looking ahead at what to expect from it throughout the day. So please do check back in then.

Until tomorrow.