Friday, July 17, 2009

Labour - the party of small business?

Every credible study I've seen of British politics confirms the irrelevance of a lot of policy debate when it comes to explaining why people vote the way they do. Completing the late Chris Lightfoot's survey confirms this - you can answer honestly, plot your political position and find yourself surrounded by people who voted the opposite way to you.

For me, one question illustrates this nicely: Why isn't Labour the party of small business?

Sure - there's a quick fire answer to do with the tribalism and cultural semiotics that seep out of the parties. The Rotary Club is always going to be a sticky wicket for any candidate who sold copies of Militant when they were at the Poly back in the early 1980s.

But surely a centre-left party in the UK should be able to appeal to these people - and it should be prepared to position itself in deeper opposition to monopoly capitalism than it is prepared to do?

Take your local shops. In the town I grew up in, there were a number of local butchers, a few bakers and every kind of local outlet. All gone, supplanted by giant chainstores, there by the grace of anti-competitive practices and dedicated to chewing up and ripping off their supply chain.

We've all been victims of larceny on a scale that we wouldn't have imagined possible at the hands of our 'too-big-to-fail' banks in the last year or so. The ones that ate local building societies alive a decade or two earlier.

Wanting to bid for public sector work? Unless your business' name begins in a 'C' and rhymes with Crapita, forget it. The amount of compliance and paperwork that you need in order to win a contract and then simply fuck the whole project up with impunity is huge.

Labour could position itself as the friend of small contracters, local retailers, farmers, food suppliers and mutuals instead of being the party that is so lenient on monopolies and tolerant of the autonomous public sector. Instead, it's strategist are quite happy to admit, in private, that small businesses are useful insofar as they tap into over-optimism in order to drive prices and wages down. The medium-term success rates of small businesses are just pitiful (and I can't find the figures off hand, but when I last saw them, they were pretty shocking).

At the risk of sounding like a slightly simplistic Spartist student, the reason it isn't prepared to do this, I suspect, reveals more about where power truly resides in this country.


ad said...

Compliance costs are generally a bigger issue for small firms than large ones.

Having a lot of government regulations to obey is therefore more of a problem for small firms.

If you want to be popular with small firms, scrap all those environmental regulations. And employment regulations. And other regulations.

If you insist on the regulations, then you must write off the small business vote.

Paulie said...

Cor. Simple as that?

jonathan said...

The power is still on the labor side. They are of big group, and the labor union really helps to accumulate the power. Thank you.

Sion Whellens said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sion Whellens said...

Might be interesting to look at the difference(s) between the UK and Italy, where (in some regions anyway) small business aligns with the left.

Philip Ross said...

I agree and we have setup the Labour Small Business Forum group to make it so.

(it is a new group! on linkedin before we did it all by email. join us