David Cameron has warned UK business that if the Labour party was elected, corporation tax and business rates would rise because the party under Ed Miliband regards the private sector as bad and the public sector as good.
In a parody of Neil Kinnock’s famous warning in 1983 of the threat posed by the re-election of Margaret Thatcher, the prime minister said: “I warn you not to grow your business, because they’ll come after you. I warn you not to take people on, because they’ll slap taxes on you. I warn you not to create wealth, because they’ll demonise you.
“I warn you not to aspire to aspire, to work, to turn a profit, to build something better – because, in their vision, you are the enemy. Private sector ‘bad’; public sector ‘good’.”
Cameron told delegates at the British Chambers of Commerce conference that businesspeople should fear the Labour party, adding that the long-held consensus in British politics over the role of business was over.
Conservatives and Liberal Democrats both exploited the absence of Miliband from the conference, saying it revealed his true animosity to business.
Labour hit back, saying the party’s business spokesman, Chuka Umunna, and the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, were representing the party.
Balls said he had no idea about the diary clash that led to Miliband not attending the conference, saying it was a silly story and he had had the engagement in his diary for the past five months. The Labour leader would be speaking at the Engineering Employers’ Federation in a fortnight, he said.
Cameron’s speech had been trailed as a plea for the private sector to share the rewards of growth by giving workers a pay rise.
But he also rejected the assertion by the TUC that he was calling for private firms to increase wages while holding pay down for public sector workers.
He said: “Within the public sector we have actually seen quite a lot of pay increases through progression, through people taking on new skills and taking on new tasks.
“And we have seen that take place, for instance in the NHS, so that people have had pay rises, in many cases year on year.”
The prime minister also insisted that his policy of offering an in/out referendum on membership of the European Union was not damaging business and warned that without his plan the prospect of the UK drifting towards an exit was more likely.
He claimed the most important business organisation in the country was not saying “don’t have a renegotiation, don’t have a referendum, just stick your head in the ground and hope this issue goes away. They are saying it is quite right to have a strategy that gives Britain the best chance of staying in a reformed European Union that works in our interest”.
Cameron said: “The reason that I think an increasing number of businesses support this approach is that in business everybody knows that you have to have a strategy, you have to have a plan.”
He added that, for the Tories, “business is not a conspiracy of runaway profits, depressed wages, inequality and unfairness, it is the best generator of growth, wealth, work and opportunity there is”.
By contrast, he said: “Labour want to hike up corporation tax, which new analysis shows could cost our economy over 96,000 jobs. They’ve opposed every planning reform and every welfare reform. They want to intervene in the market and fix prices.
“Worst of all, Labour have no credible plan to deal with the deficit and get Britain back living within our means.”
He claimed that a Labour government would mean “more borrowing, more debt, higher interest rates, a loss of confidence in Britain”.
This article was written by Patrick Wintour, political editor, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 10th February 2015 14.08 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010