Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Labour's Anti-Business Stance Ought to Mean Tories Are a Shoo-In

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Labour's Anti-Business Stance Ought to Mean Tories Are a Shoo-In

Article excerpt

Byline: ELECTION COMMENT Patience Wheatcroft

WHEN Digby Jones was director-general of the CBI, he claimed that his first thought on waking was: "What can I do for my members today?" He campaigned for widespread reform of Britain's public sector, improvements in education and streamlining of the EU. He was vehemently opposed to protectionism, arguing that in the long-term it damaged productivity; and he spoke out against overly powerful trade unions.

As Lord Jones of Birmingham, he was trade minister in the last Labour government but, as he is always at pains to stress, he was never a member of the party. Now ensconced on the crossbenches, he continues to bang the drum energetically for business. Last week, he published an open letter to Ed Miliband that powerfully highlighted what is at issue in this election.

Jones wrote: "You have created an anti-business mood music where profit is a dirty word'; where spending comes before earning." He goes on to list the areas where Labour has promised to intervene, from capping energy prices to overriding the Low Pay Commission to set a new minimum wage and restricting rents in the private sector.

The latter policy was one Miliband was keen to extol over the weekend but it will look worrying to the army of private landlords -- estimated at two million by mortgage lender Paragon -- now operating in the UK. Many of those individuals bought properties as their pensions. They now face the prospect of rent increases being pegged for three years at the CPI rate of inflation, which is currently nothing.

"We have the most successful economy in the developed world right now; don't sacrifice it on the altar of socialist ideology," concludes Lord Jones.

As the election heads into the final stretch, that sentence sums up the essential choice for voters and, on that basis, the Conservatives should be a shoo-in. They are not because that "most successful economy" is still seen to be benefiting the few rather than the many, irrespective of the millions of jobs that have been created and the billions of extra funding that has been poured into the totemic NHS. …

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