Labour seems pretty keen to prolong its row with Boots chief Stefano Pessina. We’re on day three now. After Boris Johnson weighed in on this on his LBC show, Chuka Umunna said ‘the Mayor of London is right to set himself apart from the Prime Minister and make it clear he finds it disappointing when firms do not join the overwhelming majority of British businesses in making a fair contribution to the Exchequer’.
Party sources point out that when a senior businessman claims a Labour government would be a ‘catastrophe’ for Britain, it would be odd if the party just shrugged its shoulders. That’s why Labour is defending itself so robustly.
But the circumstances of the comments, those sources insist, were unusual and a personal attack, while the new names in the papers today attacking Labour are rather closer to the Tories than might first appear.
Coffee House understands that Umunna has been working behind the scenes to reassure the business community that this is not a new strategy of the party going to war with businesses. The party sees its policy of not holding a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU as an example of the ways in which it would help businesses who play by the rules to thrive.
There is, though, a desire from some for Labour to spend a bit more time emphasising that point about helping the ‘good’ businesses. Perhaps the next few weeks would be a good time to do that, following this row and before the short campaign in the election begins.