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Election 2024: Starmer defends ‘fantastic’ business endorsements against criticisms

Keir Starmer has defended his party’s “fantastic” list of business endorsements against criticisms that it lacks FTSE100 CEOs and appears to endorse fire and rehire. Photo: PA
Keir Starmer has defended his party’s “fantastic” list of business endorsements against criticisms that it lacks FTSE100 CEOs and appears to endorse fire and rehire. Photo: PA

Keir Starmer has defended his party’s “fantastic” list of business endorsements against criticisms that it lacks FTSE 100 CEOs and appears to endorse fire and rehire.

Labour have been backed by some 121 bosses including Iceland founder Sir Malcolm Walker and JD Sports chairman Andrew Higginson, in a letter first published in the Times, calling the general election a “chance to change the country”.

But the party faced criticism for including some bosses whose firms were dormant and for an apparent lack of FTSE 100 CEOs.

Speaking at a Q&A event at with workers at Airbus in Stevenage, Starmer told City A.M. the endorsements were from a “fantastic list of businesses who are endorsing Labour”.

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He insisted: “This isn’t a one-off because I think you’ll have observed over the last year or two many, many businesses are coming out for the Labour Party.

“Our business conferences are oversubscribed and sold out within minutes. There’s a completely changed relationship between this changed Labour Party and business and that’s because they know we’re serious about growing the economy.”

Starmer added: “I’ll be very interested to see the equivalent list published by the Tory party when that’s out.”

The list was also criticised by Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, who urged the party to “immediately distance itself” from former Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye, who she claimed was “responsible for one of, if not the most brutal example, of fire and rehire during the Covid pandemic”.

Asked about Graham’s comments, Starmer said: “We’re very pleased to work with businesses of all sizes.

“As far as fire and rehire is concerned, we’re going to deal with that in our new deal for working people which will be the biggest levelling up of workers rights for a generation.”

“It’s about basic dignity and respect to work, which is why we will outlaw and fire and rehire as we will outlaw zero hours contracts and make work pay… good for the individual, but it’s also essential to our mission to grow the economy.”

During the Q&A, Starmer also definitively ruled out a return to freedom of movement, telling attendees: “We had freedom of movement when we were a member of the EU, we haven’t got it any more. We’re not going back.”