As Britain teeters on the brink of a double-dip recession, Business-driven economic growth is clearly the UK’s most pressing need. Sadly, Labour is often accused of lacking the knowledge, understanding and appetite to deliver great business policy.
Today that accusation is challenged by the launch of a new online service, Labour Enterprise Summary. It is intended to become a comprehensive online database of business ideas in the Labour movement. It already catalogues 117 proposals from a range of sources – a healthy position to be in several years before Labour’s next manifesto is required – and it isn’t complete yet.
Hearteningly, ideas cover a wide range of areas. In particular there are a great many about the primary concerns of business: tax and credits (21), access to finance (18), and educating workers and entrepreneurs (14). Writings are refreshingly free of the ant-business tone of which Labour has occasionally been accused, and there are very few proposals which business might expect to resent.
Many ideas are simply no-brainers. A number of writers talk about the importance of lowering the barriers to smaller businesses pitching for public procurement spend, which often favours larger suppliers. Several people have pointed out that Britain is unusual in not having some form of state investment bank.
There are also differentiating perspectives too. A number of writers argue perspectives relating to green issues (11 ideas), co-ops and social enterprise (9 ideas) and women (4 ideas) – all of which provide a progressive edge to a portfolio of concepts which might otherwise not be distinctively “Labour”.
Nevertheless, the test of great business policy is not whether it is uniquely “Labour”. It is whether it drives a lot of economic growth. One thing lacking at this relatively early stage in pre-manifesto policy development is targets. But we’ll need them, and they need to be bold. If we don’t have a plan estimated to generate an extra (say) 2m jobs then we need to try harder. Currently, there is little quantification of the jobs impact of Labour business ideas. That needs to change if we want the country to take notice.
George Bevis is the founder of Labour Enterprise Summary, which launches today.