Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has just announced a new policy: ‘Buy British.’ By this is meant that the government should spend more on British goods and services. It’s actually an old idea, but something that never seemed to happen. This was partly due to the last Labour government’s allergy to the suggestion that it could ‘choose winners’ and had no place interfering with ‘market competition.’ This latter issue was also tied up with the New Labour vision of the benefits of globalisation, which meant a hands off policy towards anything the private sector did, including offshoring jobs to India or wherever. This was seen as a natural process, not to be prevented by ‘ideology.’ Now Ms Reeves is talking about supporting the onshoring of jobs. ‘Buy British’ of course has a nice ring to it, but previous patriotic appeals have generally fallen flat on their face, except in the category of foreign takeovers of British companies. The latest example is the Morrisons supermarket chain, now it seems the subject of competing venture capitalists bidding to acquire it. Of course, none of these vultures have any interest in selling off Morrisons’ real estate and loading the business with lease back deals and debt. Labour has been pretty quiet about this.
Labour’s relationship with business was much easier under New Labour when, with one or two exceptions, it was strictly leave ‘em to it, even when we had to rescue the banks, or should I say bankers’ bonuses. This may soon all change. The party’s acting general secretary David Evans is suggesting that local constituency parties establish a new officer position devoted to building local business relationships. I assume this new officer position will be promoted as being on a par with existing trade union liaison officers. Perhaps it could be followed up with local businesses being able to affiliate to the party, etc., etc. This could be a key part of Kier Starmer’s historical breakthrough moment, as with Blair and Clause Four. Perhaps we could be the first political party in the world in which people could (openly) buy shares. As with so many other organisations in the public realm, the title ’Chief Executive’ would replace communist-sounding titles like ’general secretary.’ How modern is that? Naturally, the new title would earn the post-holder generous bonuses unrelated to performance.