Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey has told Cumbrian businesses they have nothing to fear from a Labour government.
Addressing Cumbria Chamber of Commerce’s Power 40 group, she said that a Labour government would invest in infrastructure, including nuclear power, and act to tackle skills shortages by creating a culture of lifelong learning.
But in a lively Q&A she had to field difficult questions from businesses on Labour’s attitude to Brexit, the minimum wage and its plan for an ‘inclusive ownership fund’ to give employees a stake in larger companies.
Chamber Chief Executive Rob Johnston said: “Politics is highly volatile at present. We could have a General Election and, potentially, a Labour government before the end of the year.
“We are keen to help businesses understand what that would mean for them, which is why we invited Rebecca to speak.
“The fact that she took time out of her busy schedule to come is a positive sign that Labour is reaching out to businesses.
“She was given a polite hearing but, it has to be said, many businesses remain uneasy about some of Labour’s policies such as raising the minimum wage to £10 an hour and extending it to under 18s, and the proposed inclusive ownership fund.
“She faced challenging questions but answered them honestly and openly.”
The Chamber’s Power 40 brings together owners and senior managers from the county’s largest and most influential companies. Accountancy firm Armstrong Watson sponsored the dinner at the North Lakes Hotel, Penrith.
Rob added: “The Chamber believes it is vital to bring senior politicians to the county to engage with businesses.
“It’s not only about hearing them. It allows businesses here to tell key influencers at Westminster about their concerns and the challenges and opportunities they face.
“Rebecca offered to continue a dialogue with the Chamber and we will definitely be taking her up on that.”
Ms Long-Bailey was part of the Labour inner circle involved in Brexit talks with the Government.
She was elected as MP for Salford and Eccles as recently as 2015 and was one of only 36 Labour MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn for party leader.
A commercial lawyer by training, she became the Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in February 2017.
She has been tipped as a potential future leader by the Labour-supporting weblog LabourList.