“Wanting to make a profit doesn’t make you evil” – Stella Creasy, deputy leader hopeful, speaks on Labour and business

Stella Creasy newsnight

Stella Creasy, deputy leadership candidate, has argued that Labour doesn’t just need to be pro-business, they need to be “of business.”

She has said that to do this the party must have “more candidates and activists at all levels [of the party] with direct experience of business both big and small.” Creasy cited the likes of Labour MPs Toby Perkins, who was previously director of a social enterprise, and Victoria Groulef, who’s been described as a “self-made business woman”, as examples of the type of people she meant.

At a speech to the Labour Finance and Industry Group, the MP for Walthamstow attempted to stave off the idea that Labour is anti-business, saying “wanting to make a profit doesn’t make you evil”. Instead, she argued that:

“We want British businesses to be profitable – so they can grow. To create jobs and provide training that will allow them to respond to this new world- and their employees too. To be truly innovative and competitive. To demonstrate to the world those hallmarks of British enterprise – fairness and quality.”

And in return we have to fight to keep us in – not out -of one of the biggest markets in which we trade.

In a bid to set out her leadership stall, Creasy outlined how she believed that Labour’s future success lies in working with business:

 If we fail to renew how we work together then at best those with the loudest voices or largest wallets will survive – and those least able to adapt will pay the price, including businesses too.

Most importantly we will not be the best we can be – to the detriment of all our futures. We have to work together not just at elections but from the grassroots up – to decide not just the way in which we face markets, but also the skills we teach our children and how best we invest in our infrastructure.

Here’s the full text of the speech

I know for some it can feel like Labour people talking about businesses is like hearing Sepp Blatter telling us he keeps all his receipts.

So having literally been put as a party into a black cab by Alan Sugar, we have a road to travel. And whilst we may have five years ahead of us to get the policies right, our priority must be to get our tone right. Not least because if we don’t, businesses won’t just feel we aren’t listening – they won’t want to take part. And without your input our policies and our purpose will be poorer as a result.

So let me begin by turning the page on tired old clichés.

Being in public life doesn’t make you an automatic moral authority.

Wanting to make a profit doesn’t make you evil.

Its the central dynamic of our modern economy – but as many point out that does not mean it is the be all AND end all of commerce. Just as we breathe to live but breathing is not the purpose of life.

Businesses across Britain change our lives- sometimes in ways you don’t realise. I know that not least from Walthamstow.

St Andrews Road is the reason it is called Andrex – we gave you two ply loo roll.

London Rubber company – gave you marigold gloves and durex

Sir Johnny Ives who invented the Ipad taught there.

However you entertain yourselves when you leave here this evening, Walthamstow businesses and business people will have played a role in your happiness. And in doing so – they also made a profit.

You know just like Lionel Jackson did – the hairdresser whose Rubber company empire developed from first uttering ‘something for the weekend sir’ – that you have ambitions that reach way beyond the balance sheet. That the biggest rewards come not just from happy customers and shareholders, but also a real sense of making a difference.

You admire Julia Deane and the Cambridge satchel company for her start up success, as much as you wish you had thought of Barclays digital eagles project. Karen Brady for becoming the youngest managing director of a plc as well as James Dyson for making his name and his fortune inventing vacuums.

Now its nice when you create a new product or achieve personal success, but we all know making money makes the world go round. That it is all very well thinking it would be great to be able to do community work but it doesn’t pay wages.

Businesses are like every other organisation, or individual, you have competing pressures and interests.

For every shareholder who wants to see your company paying the living wage, there’s a competitor outsourcing around the world to cut their costs. Or for every start up fund to help you grow, there’s a Government talking about leaving Europe- or breaking up the union.

Uncertainty, risk, competing demands define our modern world, all making it harder to think big. To be ambitious.

Some of us have jumpers older than the internet but who can now imagine being without a facebook account. But compare the workforce of Kodak – 145,000- to instagram’s 15 and you see what disruptive technology does to traditional job creation

30% of young people under the age of 30 now want to start a business – but still we only give loans to go to university. And for many businesses the national curriculum is so woefully out of date they struggle to recruit holding all back

We are a country where within the next few years the number of people self employed will outnumber those in the public sector – our social charter is increasingly out of date as a platform for any relationship with employees

We are a world where because you can trade cheaply online, your competitors can come not just from the powerhouses of Brazil, China or Nigeria, but from the web developers and app makers in the bedrooms of Solihull and Glasgow.

But whilst you can trade from anywhere, growth in Britain is stubbornly distorted, with business start ups lower than they were pre recession everywhere except London– without regeneration of our regions no amount of online working tools will change this

I hear Nigel Farage complain about the Romanians and how this is taking jobs from British people. I wonder if hes thought about the robots given automation accounts for 30% of some industries now.

In world that changes so quickly, individually however wealthy we or our companies may become, we can only make limited choices. But collectively we can change the choices on offer, transforming the opportunities for all involved. And the more effective we each are, the more likely we are to be able to make choices together that change all our lives.

So of course we want British businesses to be profitable – so they can grow. To create jobs and provide training that will allow them to respond to this new world- and their employees too. To be truly innovative and competitive. To demonstrate to the world those hallmarks of British enterprise – fairness and quality.

And in return we have to fight to keep us in – not out -of one of the biggest markets in which we trade.

To get our national infrastructure right – with only a fifth of projects classed as ‘in construction’ we know its holding back inward investment and growth.

To make science and innovation the motor of social progress – David Sainsbury is absolutely right to challenge the low levels of expenditure by both the public and private sector here in comparison to our counterparts in Japan, America, Germany and France. To foster again that white heat of technology anew – and the skills to match.

To have a competition policy framework that ensures markets are open and active – and frameworks for investment that give confidence to invest long term. Labour was right to want to have a competitive corporation tax regime, but it isn’t just tax rates that give you certainty. The lesson of some of our most successful industries such as fin tech and solar power – is as much about how Government nurtures them as it is what that taxman does.

And above all not to let businesses be characterised as somehow distinct from public life rather than part of it. You share our concerns about the future of our public services – services that you and your employees use, and you rely on to help you succeed too.

Our common cause is clear, but if we are at arms length its little wonder that no one trusts the other. We need to have a relationship that is about more than cash- or criticism. One that reflects the importance not simply of listening to business, but involving them directly alongside other stakeholders in our movement.

And that starts with our people. Labour doesn’t need to be more pro-business. We have to be OF business – with more candidates and activists at all levels with direct experience of business both big and small throughout our movement. They do exist- people like Toby Perkins or Ian Murray or Geraint Davies or Barry Gardiner and James Frith and Victoria Groulef- but we need more.

We need people who share our recognition that being progressive isn’t about ‘picking a side’ – be it big business, hardworking families, immigrants, stay at home mums or pensioners- but how we all do much better when we work together because we are more likely to be successful.

That’s why full employment matters- because to do otherwise is to fail to use the potential those out of work have to help our economy and our society grow.

Its why we built the NHS – because ensuring everyone is treated protects all of us against infectious diseases and saves lives.   

And why we fought for equality legislation- because when some in our communities cannot contribute their all, we all miss out.

And its why when we are facing the competition and creativity of other nations and industries in this global economy we cannot afford to waste any resource. If we fail to renew how we work together then at best those with the loudest voices or largest wallets will survive- and those least able to adapt will pay the price, including businesses too.

Most importantly we will not be the best we can be – to the detriment of all our futures. We have to work together not just at elections but from the grassroots up – to decide not just the way in which we face markets, but also the skills we teach our children and how best we invest in our infrastructure.

Our future lies in being a movement of many who stand up for how much better and bigger the world can be when fairness, prosperity and opportunity is open to all, not just those with the money or means to buy success.

I know you are people like this. LFIG has a massive role to play not only helping shape policy for Labour but people for labour.

They say a week is a long time in politics, so five years must seem an eternity. But this now is the challenge for our generation- not just those of any particular age, but all of us living in this age now.

In conclusion, we cannot afford to waste another second fighting the world that is here and not for the world to come –the companies, the communities and indeed this country needs and deserves nothing less.

Everything Labour.
Every weekday morning.

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