Keir Starmer believes the City of London is a ‘force for good,’ he told City A.M. in an exclusive interview yesterday, with the party’s improved relations with the business community a matter of “personal pride” to the Labour leader.
Business engagement had all but disappeared under the party’s previous leader Jeremy Corbyn but a charm offensive from Starmer and his shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves around boardroom tables has turned the tide.
Speaking ahead of the Autumn Statement, to be delivered by Conservative chancellor Jeremy Hunt tomorrow, Starmer pledged to be “laser-focussed” on the economy if he becomes the next Prime Minister – and said he wants to “preserve and protect” the City’s “powerhouse” status.
The interview came on the same day that Reeves convened the first meeting of a new infrastructure council, featuring a host of City institutions including banks HSBC, Santander and Lloyds, which would be put on a statutory footing should Labour take Number 10.
It marks the latest effort to formalise Labour’s relationship with the Square Mile, which the party leader made clear was a “team effort” alongside Reeves and shadow City minister Jonny Reynolds.
Read the full interview:
“We need to work with the City on protecting it. I think (City chiefs) would say they’re more vulnerable than they were a decade ago,” Starmer said, alluding to Brexit and growing concerns over the state of London’s public markets.
The comments mark one of Starmer’s most pro-City interventions yet, promising a financial services sector strategy to be developed over the coming months.
“Financial services have been left to one side for six, seven years,” he said, promising a new “partnership” with the industry.
Turning his fire on Rishi Sunak’s government, the Labour leader said the Conservative party no longer “understands the modern economy.”
“We haven’t had significant growth in thirteen years. In the engagement we’ve been having with business, it’s fundamentally different engagement now. It’s not having a coffee and a croissant anymore, it’s about practising a working relationship that – if we’re privileged enough to come into power – we’ll operate with businesses.
“So it’s sector by sector, sleeves rolled up, but understanding that businesses of course want growth. Our number one mission will be economic growth across the country.”
The intervention came on the same day that Rishi Sunak all but launched the Conservative party’s bid for a fifth term in office, hinting at tax cuts in this week’s Autumn Statement.
The Prime Minister promised to make Britain “the best country in the world to do business” and suggested that now inflation has halved it was time to look at the tax burden.
He listed “five long-term decisions” for the economy and public finances: reducing debt, cutting tax, building sustainable energy, backing British businesses and delivering world-class education.
Sunak told an audience at a north London college: “I want to cut taxes. I believe in cutting taxes. What clearer expression could there be of my governing philosophy than the belief that people – not governments – make the best decisions about their money?”
Starmer’s Labour party has a consistent twenty-point-plus lead in the polls, with the election expected next year.