Labour secures the backing of 120 business executives

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Labour has won the backing of 120 business executives, in an apparent endorsement of the party’s strategy of wooing the City of London and its promise to restore “stability” to the UK economy if it wins the election.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves is expected to use a speech on Tuesday to say Labour has changed for good and will be a “pro-business, pro-worker” party should it secure victory in the poll on July 4.

Ahead of the speech, 120 business chiefs wrote a letter to The Times endorsing Labour and criticising the Conservatives’ handling of the economy, which they said had been “beset by instability, stagnation and a lack of long-term focus”.

Labour regularly seeks business endorsements during election campaigns as part of efforts to convince voters of its credentials for running the economy, and the letter will be seen by Reeves as a coup.

The letter says: “Labour has shown it has changed and wants to work with business to achieve the UK’s full economic potential. We should now give it the chance to change the country and lead Britain into the future.”

Both Reeves and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer have been courting business for several years, during what has become known in the City as the “smoked salmon and scrambled egg offensive”.

It highlights how Starmer has been seeking to “detoxify” Labour after a swerve to the left under former party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Signatories of the letter include Andy Palmer, former chief executive of Aston Martin; John Holland-Kaye, former CEO of Heathrow airport; Andrew Higginson, chair of JD Sports; and Charles Harman, a former vice-chair at JPMorgan Cazenove.

Charles Randell, who quit as chair of the Financial Conduct Authority in 2022 and has since clashed with the government over regulation of cryptocurrency assets, is another signatory, along with Sir Malcolm Walker, founder of Iceland.

Walker signed a Tory business letter during the 2015 election campaign. His son Richard backed Starmer for prime minister this year, having previously sought to be a Conservative parliamentary candidate before quitting the party in 2023.

Other signatories include Benny Higgins, former chief executive of Tesco Bank; and Mark Mullen, boss of Atom Bank.

The letter says: “We, as leaders and investors in British business, believe it is time for a change. For too long, our economy has been beset by instability, stagnation and a lack of long-term focus.

“The UK has the potential to be one of the strongest economies in the world . . . We are in urgent need of a new outlook to break free from the stagnation of the past decade and we hope by taking this public stand we might persuade others of that need too.”

Some of the most prominent signatories no longer hold the senior business roles for which they are best known, and the UK’s biggest listed companies have largely avoided signing the letter.

Most large listed businesses are careful to avoid being overtly party political, making it difficult to secure their public backing.

In her speech on Tuesday, Reeves will urge business leaders to work with an incoming Labour government, insisting that a partnership between the two sides is vital to boosting economic growth.

She will say that her plans are “built on partnership with business” but also that a Labour government would be “pro-worker”.

The Conservatives claim that Labour’s “new deal” on worker rights will undermine growth, with new rules restricting zero-hours contracts and giving employees more rights from day one in a job.

Reeves argues that responsible employers would welcome the package of measures, which would stop rivals undercutting them with poor workplace practices.

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