Businesses seek clear winner in UK general election

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Businessmen say they want a clear victor to emerge from the UK general election after years of political turmoil wreaked havoc on policymaking and financial markets.

Chief executives called on the next government to review the planning system and improve infrastructure to revive the economy after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called a snap election for July 4.

Aviva chief executive Amanda Blanc said the FTSE 100 insurer wanted a “decisive result” from the survey to support investor and business confidence.

While business leaders said policy differences between the two main parties were closer than in recent elections, the call for stability is likely to be particularly welcomed by Labour.

Pollsters say Labour’s 20 percentage point lead in the polls over Sunak’s Conservatives suggests only the main opposition party could currently win a large majority.

But Labour’s lead could shrink, and a slim majority in the House of Commons could make it difficult for the party’s leader, Sir Keir Starmer, to resist the demands of his left-wing MPs.

Sunak argued this month that elections could still produce a hung parliament and experts warn that Labor needs a bigger change than Tony Blair achieved in his landslide 1997 victory to secure a majority of one.

Other business owners also expressed their preference for the winning July 4 party to get a clear mandate.

Octopus Energy chief executive Greg Jackson said the energy sector needed bold and quick decisions to make improvements such as accelerating access to the electricity grid, as well as a period of consistent policymaking.

“An election and a government with a mandate are more likely to give us that,” he added.

Stephen Bird, chief executive of FTSE 250 asset manager Abrdn, said: “Investors want certainty, one way or another. Evasion is never good for the markets.”

Since the Conservatives won the 2019 general election, the United Kingdom has had three prime ministers and five chancellors.

Sunak has sought to repair relations with business bosses after Liz Truss’s disastrous 2022 “mini” budget and the abrasive approach to business adopted by Boris Johnson.

“What is urgently needed in government is stability, competence, continuity and pragmatism over ideology,” said Sir Mike Rake, former chairman of BT Group, KPMG and easyJet, in language that echoes the rhetoric itself. by Starmer.

Several business bosses said they were not worried about the prospect of a Labor government, despite the party’s plans to boost workers’ rights.

“The economic agendas of both parties are closer to each other than in previous elections,” said Hendrik du Toit, chief executive of asset manager Ninety One.

“What interests us as investors is whether Keir Starmer in particular will deliver on his election promises. . . “Stability and certainty mean more to markets than slight changes in political agendas.”

Starmer has sought to detoxify Labour’s relationship with trade since taking over from far-left leader Jeremy Corbyn, who favored nationalizing sections of British industry.

Some business leaders, including Rake, called for the next government to be closely aligned with the EU, arguing that Brexit had damaged the UK economy.

Both main parties have avoided publicly reopening the divisive Brexit debate, but Labor is keen to seek closer trade and defense ties with the EU.

Some business owners remain concerned about the possibility of a Labor government.

A FTSE 100 chief executive said shortly before the election was called that he was worried about deputy leader Angela Rayner, who is to Starmer’s left.

The executive added: “We know that she has very different views to (shadow chancellor) Rachel Reeves.” Reeves has worked to build relationships with business leaders.

Several bosses said the next government would need to improve planning rules and the UK’s infrastructure to boost growth.

“There is no growth if industries cannot advance and develop faster, so it is vital that we see bold and confident decision-making to accelerate planning and dig ground, creating jobs, boosting supply chains and delivering modern infrastructure.” to this country. needs,” said Keith Anderson, chief executive of ScottishPower.

Mark Allan, chief executive of FTSE 100 property group Landsec, said his firm could invest “double what we currently do” if the planning system was made more efficient.

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