LFIG’S new Chairman is Hamish Sandison. He is a partner in the Fieldfisher international law firm, and Chairman of their consultancy arm, Fieldfisher Consulting. He has served as a member of LFIG’s executive Committee for 2 years, and was a Labour Parliamentary Candidate in Monmouth in the 2010 General Election. He chaired the joint LFIG/Society of Labour Lawyers Task Force on Public Procurement, which published its influential report on “socially responsible procurement” shortly before the General Election.
Here is an edited version of his remarks to LFIG’s AGM at the House of Commons on June 10th.
I’d like to begin with a huge vote of thanks to our outgoing Chair, David Offenbach. In only 4 years, David has put LFIG on the map:
• Ensuring that LFIG’s voice is heard loud and clear in the Party and in the business community;
• Writing definitive reports on the reform of company law and takeovers;
• Dealing calmly with a hostile press intent on tripping us up.
I’m glad to report that he’s staying on as a member of our Executive Committee. I will be relying heavily on his guidance over the coming year.
I’d like to say a few words about where we go from here to build on David’s legacy.
First, following Labour’s comprehensive defeat in May, LFIG obviously needs to look back and learn lessons. What did LFIG do well? What could we have done better? And I’d like LFIG to contribute to Margaret Beckett’s wider review of the Party’s performance in the General Election.
Then we need to look forward. How do we avoid another crushing defeat in 2020? And what can LFIG do to help secure victory in 2020?
To answer those questions, it’s worth reminding ourselves what LFIG is for. The Labour Finance and Industry Group – LFIG – is the largest and only business group affiliated to the Labour Party. Our affiliation gives us rights to nominate, rights to vote, and rights to influence policy.
As such, my ambition as your incoming Chair is that LFIG should be – and be seen to be – the key link between Labour and the business community. Not the only link of course: there will always be other links between business and Labour at all levels of the Party. But I believe that LFIG should be the key link between Labour and business at the national level: a voice for business in the Party; and a voice for the Party in the business community.
To that end, I’m going to make a number of proposals to our next Executive Committee meeting to build on what David has achieved:
• Proposals to strengthen the links between LFIG and the Party, both at Brewer’s Green (Party HQ) and within the Parliamentary Labour Party – in the Commons, in the Lords and in the European Parliament;
• Proposals to wider and deepen our engagement with businesses in the UK – small, medium and large;
• Proposals enhance our policy development role, with more authoritative reports like the one we published on socially responsible procurement;
• Proposals to grow our membership across the UK and beyond;
• Proposals to raise our public profile in the media – both the conventional media and the social media.
It’s an ambitious programme for growth. But it’s not just growth for its own sake; it’s growth with a purpose. And here’s the purpose.
There will be many lessons to be learned from the results on May 7th: some will be contested; others will be uncontested. In the uncontested category, I think it is already quite clear that Labour was perceived as anti-business, and that this played a significant part in our defeat. Whether our policies were actually anti-business is another matter. I don’t think they were. Certainly LFIG played a part in promoting a number of policies which were pro-business. But perception is all.
So the Party’s job over the next 5 years is to nail the lie that Labour is anti-business, and to develop relationships, policies and language to show that we are – and are perceived to be – a pro-business party, in favour of jobs and economic growth and prosperity for all.
I believe that LFIG has a crucial part to play in making that case, and I invite you to join us on that journey.