Is Labour struggling to connect because it is scared of big business?

By Sam Tomlin

So much has been made of Labour’s apparent inability to speak to ‘ordinary people’ in the past weeks and months that it is barely worth repeating.

It has also become clear, however, that the UKIP surge, is built on more than social issues such as immigration (although it is not exactly the strategy to deal with this by parodying this fear as Emily Thornberry found last week). Owen Jones’ insightful article the other day showed how economic grievances are just as prevalent among UKIP voters as immigration as the chart beneath illustrates.UKIPLabour’s inability to tap into these feelings is certainly worrying and is almost certainly a hang-over from the Blair years in more ways than one. The metropolitan liberalism of the party elite is a factor in its apparent disconnection from the working class, but so is its fear of upsetting big business.

Rhetoric in Miliband’s recent speech at the Confederation of British Industry suggested he wanted to change the way our economy functions, but there was no acknowledgement that many of the social and economic issues we face are because of the domination of and monopolies created by many of the huge companies the CBI represents.

This is ultimately because power is arguably no longer located in the corridors of Whitehall, but the board rooms of big business. This was persuasively argued by Gary Younge recently:

The limited ability of national governments to pursue any agenda that has not first been endorsed by international capital and its proxies is no longer simply the cross they have to bear; it is the cross to which we have all been nailed. The nation state is the primary democratic entity that remains. But given the scale of neoliberal globalisation it is clearly no longer up to that task.

Executive pay has quadrupled in the past 20 years, but it is seriously questionable whether the largest companies are really contributing mass flourishing in our society as a whole, as political economist Will Hutton suggested at last night’s annual Theos think tank lecture on morality and the economy. The economy is built for humanity, not humanity for the economy.

Speaking boldly to this agenda would not simply be a good tactic to win an election, it would be the first real step towards creating an alternative society that really works ‘for the benefit of all and not the privileged few’.


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