Labour conference draws mixed response

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told conference Labour was ‘on the threshold of power’. Photo credit: Chatham House
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told conference Labour was ‘on the threshold of power’. Photo credit: Chatham House

Related tags Fdf director general United kingdom Conservative party Food and drink federation

The Labour Party conference in Brighton this week drew a mixed response from food manufacturing and business leaders, with plans for a new industrial strategy drawing praise but criticism of business finding less favour.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) welcomed discussion of a new strategy for industry. “FDF is heartened by Labour's focus this week in Brighton on the importance a new industrial strategy can play in boosting prosperity across the country,” ​said FDF director general Ian Wright.

Wright looked forward to continuing “constructive discussions” with the labour teams shadowing the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

“As the UK's largest manufacturing sector, food and drink is ideally placed to spread growth and jobs in every constituency,”​ added Wright. “A sector deal which enables us to build skills, boost exports and innovation will equip UK food and drink to compete on a global scale.”

The FDF boss also welcomed Labour’s support for EU citizens already working in the UK to remain after Brexit, voiced at a fringe meeting it staged with the National Farmers Union at the conference on Monday (September 25).

Support for EU citizens

“They [EU workers] are a valued part of our workforce,”​ said Wright. “Our businesses need time to prepare and plan for a new UK-EU relationship, and a proper transition phase is vital so we can continue to give consumers the quality, choice and value they rightly expect.”

But the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) highlighted Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s criticism of businesses.

“Repeated rhetoric on the sins of a handful of businesses does little to reassure anxious entrepreneurs and investors about the UK’s future as a great place to do business,”​ said CBI director general Carolyn Fairburn.

The vast majority of UK firms were dedicated to creating great jobs, and products and services that improve people’s lives and that must be recognised, said Fairburn.

“Where Labour has sought insight from business, such as on its policy for Brexit and investment in infrastructure, we have seen sensible proposals that support jobs and living standards.

“But where engagement has been lacking, from nationalisation to business taxes, future investment, jobs and growth are being put at risk.”

‘On the threshold of power’

In his keynote speech, the Labour leader and MP for Islington North, told conference that the party was now “in the political mainstream”​ and stands “on the threshold of power”.

Meanwhile, the joint FDF and NFU Labour Party fringe meeting was one of a series of forums at the major political party conferences.

The next joint panel event ‘What Next for Food and Farming After Brexit’ will take place at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on Monday October 2.

Taking part in the debate – which will start at 6pm at Manchester Town Hall will be: environment secretary Michael Gove; Wyke Farms md Richard Clothier; NFU president Meurig Raymond; and the FDF’s Wright. The event will be chaired by Julia Glotz, managing editor of’s sister title The Grocer​.

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