Business attacks on Miliband speech miss the point

Opinion

Business attacks on Miliband speech miss the point

It's amazing how quickly the pro-business lobby came out against Labour leader Ed speech attacking predatory businesses and asset strippers.

In his speech, Miliband stressed that the choice in politics wasn't between being "pro-business or anti-business" because "all parties must be pro-business today". Instead, he argued, politicians were faced with choosing to be on the side of the wealth creators 
or asset strippers, producers or predators.

miliband.jpgBeing pro-business, he added, was being "on the side of small businesses who can't get a loan...on the side of high-value manufacturing that can't build its business because of the short-termist culture...on the side of the British company losing out to its competitors when their government steps in and our government stands aside".

I fail to see how any of those assertions can meet with much argument from businesses up and down the country or their representatives. So there was something both ultra-defensive and ultra-aggressive in the way so many tried to spin it as an anti-business speech. Why so? People are quick to draw a distinction between the "deserving" and "undeserving" poor, why can 't they be allowed to do the same for "good" and "bad" businesses?

Miliband's speech seemed to be setting out the framework for a set of values that all parts of society, from individual citizens to the biggest businesses, could subscribe to. If individual citizens are censured when they fail to live up to those values, why shouldn't businesses and executives be treated the same? The predictably hostile reaction from business groups suggests they have some way to go before they understand that as an integral part of society they are subject to the same values as the people who work for them.

This was first published in September 2011

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