“We appear to be being offered Singapore-Upon-Thames or Stalingrad-Upon-Thames and we don’t really want either”by Duncan Weldon / October 6, 2017 / Leave a comment
At last week’s Labour Party conference in Brighton one of the more eye catching stories to emerge was the fact that Shadow Chancellor John Mcdonnell was “wargaming” a possible run on the pound if Labour were to be elected. Not to be outdone, the Conservatives responded with a conference so catastrophic that the pound tumbled 2.5 per cent against the dollar this week, in its worst weekly performance since, well, this time last year when the previous Conservative Conference managed to push it down by 4 per cent.
As you would imagine, the atmosphere amongst business attendees of both conferences was pretty far from upbeat. The delegates at the conference of the party which finished in first place at this year’s election were in an almost uniformly glum mood whilst those at the conference of the party which finished second were mostly energised and optimistic. But, having spent much time over the last two weeks with the representatives of UK PLC at both events, it was striking how neither left them exactly fired up. As one put it “we appear to be being offered Singapore-Upon-Thames or Stalingrad-Upon-Thames and we don’t really want either.”
That is unfair to both parties. Labour’s official programme is far more “mainstream European social democracy” than “Stalingrad,” whilst the Conservative vision is much too unclear to really be described as anything as coherent as “Singapore.” Theresa May after all began the week with a claim that only she could defend “free markets” and ended it with a pledge to cap energy prices.
Brexit, of course, dominated much of the business discussion. Labour conference saw a much higher level of business engagement than in recent years. This seemed to be driven by dual factors. First, the belief that Jeremy Corbyn may indeed be forming Britain’s next government. And second, that given Labour’s ambiguous messaging, few seemed to have any idea exactly what that means for the UK’s relationship with Europe.
“Theresa May began the week with a claim that only she could defend “free markets” and ended it with a pledge to cap energy prices”