Nothing was more indicative of the Tories’ base of support than a letter published in the Telegraph yesterday, signed by 103 big business leaders, calling on the public to vote Conservative in May.
Among the letter’s signatories were Bob Dudley, the American boss of BP, Tidjane Thiam, the chief executive of Prudential who received a £11.8m total payout for 2014, and Lord Rose, the Tory peer and former boss of Marks & Spencer.
The Independent found that of those who signed the Tory letter, one in five were given honours by David Cameron, including four peerages and 18 MBEs, OBEs, CBEs and knighthoods. The analysis also found that one in three were donors to the Tory party. These 32 signatories have given a total of £9m to the party that thrives on big business support.
“We run some of the leading businesses in the UK,” the letter began. “We believe the Conservative-led government has been good for business…”
True enough – but has this same government been any good for the rest of the country?
As the UK’s big business establishment has thrived from loopholes enabling criminal levels of tax evasion, unchecked privatisation of public services and a government-sanctioned subsidy of poverty wages through in-work benefits, the average citizen has suffered.
But a letter appearing in the Guardian and the Mirror today (April 2) told a very different story from the Telegraph’s letter.
Signed by a representative cross-section of the entire country – from both small and big business leaders to writers, designers, shelf stackers, nurses and farm hands—Labour’s letter laid out the fundamental choice we all face come the general election in May.
The letter read:
“We all care about Britain’s economy and we all have a stake in the future.
“We are all working people. Some of us run businesses, large and small. Some of us used to work on zero hours contracts, some of us still do.
“We come from all walks of life; this is what Britain looks like.
“We believe that the fundamental choice at this election is: who does this country work for? Does it work only for those at the very top or does it work for working people – those trying to make ends meet, working in British businesses across the country to create wealth and support their families?
“A symbol of the failure of this government’s economic plan is the proliferation of zero hours contracts which has helped fuel the low wage, low skill economy that is letting down working people and letting down Britain.”
Of the 100 people who’ve signed the letter, 50 understand from first-hand experience this “symbol of failure” – they are all currently on zero hours contracts themselves.
The signatories concluded that the Conservative-led status quo, where only those on top are allowed to thrive, must end with the election.
“Britain only succeeds when working people succeed. We need a better plan for prosperity,” the letter concluded. “We need a better plan and a better future. We need a Labour government to put working people first.”
It was a sentiment echoed yesterday by Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, who praised Labour’s workplace manifesto, which most recently has included a pledge to end employment tribunal fees.
“Labour’s workplace manifesto offers workers and their families a choice – more attacks on their rights in the workplace and an economy that works for a few at top, or a government on their side building an economy for all based on secure well paid jobs and dignity in the workplace,” he said.
“Millions of families just getting by will at last see someone on their side — a Labour Party determined to build an economy where we can all reap the rewards.”