Business vote deserting Labour


British business is turning its back on the Labour government as a new poll finds that almost six out of ten company directors intend to vote for the Conservatives on May 5.

A Mori poll of 200 UK finance directors carried out for the Financial Times found that half believe the Conservatives have the best policies for business, against fewer than a quarter (23 per cent) for Labour and a mere four per cent for the Liberal Democrats.

Almost six out of ten (58 per cent) said they intended to vote Conservative, a quarter (26 per cent) Labour and 14 per cent Lib Dem.

An overwhelming nine out of 10 also said that taxes on business will rise if Labour forms the next government.

But conversely, almost six out of ten (58 per cent) said that the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, remains the most capable candidate to run Britain's economy.

Particularly telling was the fact that only four per cent of those questioned believed that the government's tax and regulation policies encouraged business expansion. Half also said that they discouraged enterprise.

Last month, the government's Better Regulation Task Force (BRTF) calculated that the that the cost of regulation amounted to ten per cent on the UK's GDP and that £25bn a year is spent simply enforcing rules.

Cutting the cost of regulation on British business could increase GDP by more than one per cent and save businesses £7.5bn per year, the BRTF estimated.

Meanwhile a quarter of small businesses questioned for the UK Business Barometer (UKBB) said that they had purposely avoided growing their businesses to avoid the impact of regulation.

However the despite the weight of evidence, the Labour-dominated Parliamentary Trade and Industry Select Committee said in its report on regulation in March that regulations in the UK were "not excessively burdensome on employers or a threat to UK competitiveness."

Calling for major investments in transport and skills, a reduction in the business tax burden and big increases in public sector efficiency, CBI Director-General Sir Digby Jones said last month that the business vote was "up for grabs".

On the evidence of this latest poll, it seems that it is a fight that Labour is rapidly losing.