On Monday 18 November the Tory, Labour, and Lib Dem leaders all spoke at the conference of the Confederation of British Industry, the main bosses’ organisation.
Jo Swinson of the Lib Dems got the warmest applause. The Lib Dems, with their new ultra-neo-liberal pledge always to run a government budget surplus, are pitching to be considered the full-on party of big business.
According to the Financial Times, “many admitted, sometimes grudgingly, that the Conservatives would still probably get their vote”.
Boris Johnson’s policy of “taking the UK out of the EU as soon as possible... remains deeply unpopular among executives”. CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said that the Tories’ new “ “obsession” with “wholesale deregulation of the UK” — cutting loose from EU standards, and aligning more with Trump’s USA — was “something that no business wanted”.
Some businesses, in fact, do want wholesale deregulation. The bigger businesses generally don’t. They reckon that the cost of the mild EU regulations is slight, and certainly less than the cost of the economic barriers which cutting loose will lead to.
But they also have shrugged and settled for a soft-ish Brexit. They’re happy enough to see migrant workers more insecure. And they guess that the deep historic ties between the Tory party and big business remain strong enough to pull Johnson back into line if his nationalist demagogy wins the election.
Jeremy Corbyn told the assembled bosses that it is “complete nonsense” to think that Labour is “anti-business”.
Labour wants a better minimum wage, and says “the largest corporations should pay their taxes just as smaller companies do”, he protested; but the lords of industry and commerce could expect “more investment than you ever dreamt of”, “the best educated workforce”, and “full-fibre broadband”.
The assembled bosses still weren’t persuaded. In fact, they know as we do that socialist policies can be carried through only by taking ownership and control out of the hands of the ultra-wealthy minority, and establishing real economic democracy.