By Elizabeth Piper
LONDON, Dec 8 (Reuters) – Britain’s main opposition Labour leader, Keir Starmer, pledged to business on Thursday his party would work in partnership with companies to spur economic growth, criticising the government for failing the public with its “sticking plaster politics”.
With the next election expected in 2024, Labour is positioning itself as a government-in-waiting ready to take power from the Conservatives who, Starmer said, had presided over a decade of chaos unable to tackle Britain’s deep problems.
In a speech to businesses in one of London’s financial hubs, Canary Wharf, Starmer was keen to prove his party’s pro-business credentials to mark a break with the party of former leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose left-wing beliefs drove some firms away.
“I am here to say that Labour is ready, is ready to partner with you because we’re not just a pro-business party, we are a party proud to be pro-business,” he said, adding the stance was a “matter of conviction” the party was united behind.
After a year of chaotic politics when the Conservatives have ousted two prime ministers, seen an ever-changing roll call of ministers and numerous U-turns, businesses are increasingly courting, and being courted by, Labour before the next election.
Earlier this year, one Labour lawmaker said: “The barons of industry can’t get enough of us at the moment.”
The change in fortunes for a party, which some critics say has struggled to cement a new identity under Starmer, was underlined on Wednesday, when Labour attracted more money from donors than the traditionally better off Conservative Party.
Labour received 4.76 million pounds ($5.79 million) to the Conservatives’ just over 3 million.
In Canary Wharf, Starmer repeated his desire to spread power away from the political centre of Westminster if his party won the next election to try to spur economic growth and to restore trust in a governing class scarred by a series of scandals.
He also said a Labour government would stand by ‘sound money’ and never risk economic stability, a dig at the short-lived premiership of Liz Truss whose tax-cutting programme roiled markets and led to her downfall.
“The reason the last decade has felt so chaotic is because of their (the Conservatives) failure to seize the opportunities our country has, their short-termism, their sticking-plaster politics is holding us back,” he said.
“What I’m focused on is how Labour can remedy that historic wrong. Because it’s going to be our job to tackle the long-term challenges, to give Britain a new ‘business model’.”
($1 = 0.8225 pounds)
(Reporting by Elizabeth PiperEditing by Alexandra Hudson)