Labour’s Business and the Unions

Published on Next Left, by Olly Parker – Events Director at the Fabian Society, November 30, 2011.

One of a very limited run of Labour’s Business will be given to every delegate who attends our annual conference entitled The Economic Alternative on January 14th. Full details and how to buy your tickets can be found here. Please purchase your tickets early to avoid disappointment. Mark Rowney has worked for several years as a senior finance lawyer specialising in transport, energy and infrastructure at Clifford Chance LLP. 

On Monday, two well known Labour party activists (Luke Bozier and Alex Smith) launched a pamphlet entitled
Labour’s business: Why Enterprise must be at the heart of Labour politics in the 21st century. It aims to be not “a Labour manifesto for business”. Instead recognising that “in twenty-first century Britain, business must be at the very core of what it means to be Labour”, it aims to “inform future work on how Labour can become the party of enterprise”. When so far to date, Labour’s business policy is the incomprehensible distinction between so called predators and producers, and with yesterday’s budget statement offering little hope for the future, “Labour’s business” is a very welcome development … //

… Unions exist to support their members but their definitions of “support” and “members” seems weak. I have no idea if the day after Gaddaffi died, union members started sending recruitment and development teams to Libya, but they should have. Supporting members means growing in membership, targeting the 81% of people in the private sector who aren’t members. It means spreading the values of basic employment rights, non-discrimination and health and safety laws, to other developing countries. It means sitting on the board and taking responsibility for social corporate responsibility. It means being seen to be a positive force for business and change in society, not a barrier. Labour should help the unions achieve this goal.

“Labour’s business” doesn’t just talk about the internal relations of Labour with business and aims to be a jack of all trades. By its very nature, the pamphlet is superficial but that is its strength rather than its weakness; it aims to promote debate rather that set out a detailed line of argument. With eighteen chapters written by twenty different people and edited by two, the pamphlet varies in its tone and thought processes. Conflict in the thinking inevitably and happily arises.

Yet my suggestion for the initial focus for debate is to be found in Section One of the pamphlet. For as Section One argues, how can Labour really have a serious policy for business if it first does not have the internal relations with business and the capacity and culture for those relationships to develop and grow?

The Fabian Society would like to thank Alex Smith and Luke Bozier for their kind donation of the book. (full text).

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