EXCL Labour mulls ‘one stop shop’ for small firms as party seizes on Tory business blasts
Labour is drawing up plans for a new US-style agency to kick-start small businesses, as the party looks to steal a march on the Conservatives following a string of Brexiteer blasts at industry.
Accusing the Tories of launching a “full-frontal attack on businesses large and small” in recent months, Shadow Business Minister Bill Esterson unveiled plans to woo small firms with a new outfit inspired by the United States’ Small Business Administration, which has helped US giants like Apple and Nike get off the ground.
The major federal agency - set up by President Eisenhower in the 1950s - offers loans and advice to small businesses to help them expand, and is part-funded through fees paid by firms when they use the service to access finance.
Mr Esterson told PoliticsHome’s sister title The House that Labour is considering setting up a similar “one-stop shop" agency in Britain if it wins power, with the party’s shadow business team currently thrashing out the details.
He said: "Just to give you an idea of the success in America - their agency started in 1953, and it has incubated firms like Nike and Walmart and Microsoft and thousands and thousands more.
"It has transcended governments of both parties in America… Their mission is the overall success of the US economy through small business.
"I’d love to see something like that in this country - because if we can develop our small business sector, make it much stronger, see far more of them succeed and continue to grow and thrive, we can create more of our own medium-sized firms and give greater stability and strength to the UK economy.”
The move forms part of Labour’s bid to capitalise on a host of criticisms of business by prominent Conservative Eurosceptics and shake off its image as an anti-business party.
Prominent Tory Brexiteer Boris Johnson was reported to have uttered “f**k business” following a dire prediction from the CBI business lobby group over the summer, while Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab last week took retailer John Lewis to task for blaming a slump in profits on uncertainty over the UK’s exit.
A war of words also erupted in the Conservative party after aerospace giant Airbus warned that it could be forced to relocate its UK operations because of Brexit, while business lobby group the BCC said patience with the Government's strategy was at "breaking point".
Pouncing on the row, Mr Esterson told the House there had been a “sea change in the attitudes of the business community towards Labour” since last year’s snap election.
He declared: “The Tories have, in the immortal words of Boris Johnson, told business to F*** off - which rather leaves a space open for us.”
However, while the Shadow Minister claimed Labour's version of Brexit would stop businesses "falling off a cliff”, he admitted that leaving the European Union - which his party backs - will still leave firms "worse off” overall.
He said: "I’m not hearing business saying they are going to be better off outside the European Union."