New polling has found that 47% of businesses say perceptions of the Labour Party have improved under the leadership of Keir Starmer, changing for the better compared to when Jeremy Corbyn was leader.
According to the research, carried out by Opinium for SME4Labour, 33% of businesses believe there has not been any change and 15% report that they think perceptions of the party have changed for the worse.
The polling found that medium-sized businesses are more likely to say perceptions of Labour have changed for the better, with 56% saying they had improved, whereas 41% of sole traders think perceptions of Labour have improved.
A third of businesses (33%) reported that they think Starmer is the right person for the job, while 38% said they think the party would be better for small businesses without either the current leader or Corbyn in the top job.
Opinium found that Starmer is favoured by those aged between 35 and 55, as well as those over 55. Corbyn is preferred by 46% of respondents aged between 18 and 34, compared to 25% who think Starmer is better for small businesses.
The research was carried out in late August and early September ahead of the annual Labour conference this year, during which Rachel Reeves promised that the party will “oversee the biggest overhaul of business taxation in a generation”.
“Our whole system of business taxation is not fair, and it’s not fit for purpose. How can it be, when bricks-and-mortar high street businesses are taxed more heavily than online giants?” she asked conference.
The Shadow Chancellor outlined how Labour would replace business rates with a system that rewards businesses that move into empty premises, entrepreneurship and investment, and one in which no council or public service will “lose out”.
The Opinium research found that 68% of businesses want to see a reform of business taxation in a way that levels the playing field between major online retailers and the ‘bricks-and-mortar’ high street companies with which they compete.
Despite recording an overall improvement in perceptions of the party, the polling found that a Conservative government under Boris Johnson is still thought by small- and medium-sized business leaders to be better for their businesses.
40% would opt for a Tory administration under the current Prime Minister, compared to 23% who would choose a Labour government led by Starmer. According to the poll, 55% believe a Johnson-led government would be better for large businesses.
Just under a quarter of small- and medium-sized business leaders (23%) reported that the economy would be better with a Labour government with Starmer as Prime Minister, compared to 45% for a Conservative government under Johnson.
The most recorded reason for preferring the Tories was that Labour would increase the debt and deficit by spending too much (41%), followed by a belief that the Tories care more about the economy while Labour cares about other issues (30%).
Reeves also pledged to establish a new ‘office for value for money’, which would be tasked with “keeping a watchful eye on how public money is spent and equipped with meaningful powers”, at the annual party conference in Brighton last month.