Former M&S chief joins the fray as things get ugly between Labour and big business

Why are retail bosses concerned that Labour are anti-business?

Stuart Rose, the former chief executive of M&S, has lashed out at Labour leader Ed Miliband, describing him as a “70s throwback”, who is destroying the UK’s pro-business consensus.

He said that the party’s “business bashing” could lead to “shuttered shop fronts” and economic decline.

Rose’s comments come after an attack on Labour from high street chemist Boots’ chief executive Steffano Pessina, who said a Labour government would be a “catastrophe”, and bad for business.

Miliband subsequently struck back at the remarks, pointing out that Pessina lives in Monaco, doesn’t pay any UK tax, and even moved Boots’ headquarters to Switzerland in an alleged tax-avoidance move.

Miliband’s defence clearly did little to persuade Rose that non-tax payers such as Pessina should pipe-down over concerns about the left-wing party’s potential impact.

In a combative article in the Daily Mail, Rose said: “Labour’s attack this week on a major British business smacked of the destructive anti-business mood that went out of political fashion decades ago.”

He added: “Though some might dismiss this as just another political spat, to me it is more significant. It marks a turning of the tide that every business and worker in the country should pay attention to. For a long time, we seemed to have reached a consensus about business in Britain. Mainstream politicians agreed that business was not the enemy but the vital engine that kept our economy moving, creating jobs and opportunities.”

“Now, Ed Miliband and the Labour Party have blown that consensus apart. For the past few years, there has been a steady drum-beat of anti-business policies from Labour.”

Elsewhere, CBI deputy director-general Katja Hall stepped in to defend Pessina, saying it is “important that businesses feel able to speak out about what is good for jobs and growth. “Business leaders do know what will affect investment. I think it is important that that voice is heard.” The FT reports.


Meanwhile, Ed Balls – never one to miss out on an argument – has jumped into the ring. Interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme he said: “In the next three months we going to have a number of people brought forward by the Conservatives, whether it’s Gary Barlow or Mr Pessina, saying ‘don’t vote Labour.’ The idea that somebody who doesn’t pay tax in Britain telling people how to vote will stick in the craw.”

Pessina has refused to name which particular Labour policies he objects to, but during Ed Balls’ interview on Radio 4, the shadow chancellor said that Pessina had only criticised political plans to leave the EU, which are most likely under UKIP and the Conservatives.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • "... anti-business mood that went out of political fashion decades ago"

    Yeah, shame it went out of fashion really, isn't it? All this "engine of the economy" and "creator of jobs" nonsense that big business comes out with it absolute balderdash.

    Big corporations like Boots & M&S reduce the overall number of jobs and suck money out of the UK economy through their tax-dodging antics. Their profits end up in the hands of the elite.

    Smaller businesses make less profit, keep money in the local economy and employ more people.

    So any time you hear some corporate mouthpiece like Pessina or Rose saying that Labour is "bad for business", what they really mean is that Labour is likely to get in the way of their plans to take money away from YOUR community and funnel it into the accounts of a load of offshore, tax-dodging billionaires.

    If Miliband really is ending the "consensus about business in Britain", then we should all be delighted. It's about time someone put the needs of ordinary people above the whims of billionaire businessmen.

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