Labour will use its sold-out business conference next week to unveil the party’s City policy plans, the Guardian can reveal, as it tries to win over hundreds of UK executives before a general election.
More than 500 bosses from across British finance will gather in London on 1 February for the event, where opposition leaders including Sir Keir Starmer, his shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, and the shadow business secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, plan to “showcase Labour’s offer to business”.
The party is hoping that the conference – which sold out within two hours in the autumn – will demonstrate its “commitment to work hand in glove with the business community” and will use it as an opportunity to reveal its business policy plans after two major industry reviews.
The Guardian understands that will include Labour’s much-anticipated strategy for the City and will detail how the party plans to harness the strength of the UK’s £275bn financial and professional services sector.
Reeves and the shadow City minister, Tulip Siddiq, revealed in December that they had appointed a panel of 10 independent grandees from the world of finance – including Barclays chair Nigel Higgins and London Stock Exchange Group chief David Schwimmer – to guide its approach to the City, which accounts for about 12% of the UK economy.
However, work had begun months earlier, when Labour seconded staff from the consultancy Oliver Wyman to gather views from more than 80 industry bodies, including TheCityUK, UK Finance, and British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, as well as consumer groups and charities.
Siddiq is now expected to reveal the findings and policy plans at a breakfast meeting with City bosses on Thursday next week, which will cover financial regulation in areas such as buy now, pay later, and plans to boost gender and ethnic diversity across the sector. It is likely to break down its announcement into five key themes: capital markets, competitiveness, consumer protection, innovation and sustainability.
However, Labour’s approach to more controversial issues, including a previously mooted move to scrap discounted tax rates for “carried interest” in the private equity industry, were not “in scope” of the City review, according to sources.
Carried interest refers to the share of profits that private equity fund managers make on successful deals. Dealmakers now pay 28% capital gains tax on those profits, nearly half of the 45% income tax levied on higher earners. Labour had pledged in 2021 to scrap the tax loophole, which is believed to benefit about 2,000 private equity bankers across the UK.
Meanwhile, the shadow business minister is expected to reveal how the party intends to boost the voice of small businesses after a review by lobbyist Iain Anderson, a former adviser to Boris Johnson, who defected from the Tory party in 2023.
Anderson had been asked to draft a plan for how Labour should engage with smaller firms, to ensure they were not sidelined by engagement with big business and unions. “This is about everybody getting an ability to make a pitch,” Anderson told the Financial Times in October.
Labour’s conference – the location of which has yet to be unveiled for security reasons – will be held more than a month before Jeremy Hunt’s spring budget on 6 March, giving the opposition some lead time before the chancellor announces initiatives that the Conservatives hope will appeal to business and voters.