IS THERE ANY POINT IN LOBBYING THE LABOUR PARTY?
James Hawkins, Senior Consultant, Public Affairs
To say that there would be no point lobbying the Labour Party would be a big call – and the wrong one. While corporate lobbyists were highly conspicuous by their absence at the Labour Party Conference this week, the same could be said of the vast bulk of moderate Labour MPs. But it is the moderate Labour MPs who still want to campaign on issues important to them, engage with business and demonstrate that the Labour Party is still a political force.
The Labour Party is facing a proper existential crisis, convulsed by internal conflict. The Party has become detached from its working class base. Electorally it is under intense pressure in the north of England from UKIP, has been all but wiped out in Scotland by the SNP, and in the south outside London, has lost considerable ground to the Tories. The Conservative Party is hardly without its own difficulties, but is running rampant in pursuing its One Nation social reform agenda, eating up policy space that Labour has traditionally regarded as its own. While the Conservatives also seek to define their positions on the big issues of the day like Brexit and immigration, Labour’s response is weak and bloodless.
That Labour is in dire straits is clear for all to see, and the civil war between the moderates and the Corbyn leadership is better articulated elsewhere. However, it is worth remembering that the Government only has a majority of twelve. It is not difficult to foresee the Conservatives’ losing their swagger and there is an appetite amongst opposition MPs to provide scrutiny and confront government measures that might be ill-thought through or flawed.
The Labour leadership’s approach to business may seem more rooted in a Marxist conception of capitalist exploitation of labour, rather than one of positive partnership, but for moderate MPs business is not the problem. It is obvious to say that lobbying on an issue or campaign is more effective when you can demonstrate cross-party support. Labour is not a no-go zone for business. There is a strong desire amongst ‘moderate’ Labour MPs to work with third parties, including business, on campaigns and important issues to achieve positive change that support communities, jobs and business growth. The Labour Party may seemingly be a long way from power, but Labour MPs are not willingly going to surrender their influence in Parliament. Give them a ring (or let us do that for you), I think you’ll find they will take the call!
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