Of mutual benefit: how Labour can learn from enterprise (Prem Goyal)
Posted by admin on May 24, 2012
By Prem Goyal
For too long, sections of the Labour Party have peddled a dangerous myth. You hear it in occasional branch meetings and social events, at conference and on the doorstep. It’s not a common view, but it is vocal. That myth is that the only way to be a good socialist is to campaign for more money from the state for public services; that business and profit are, by definition, un-Labour.
It’s a myth Ed Miliband’s new generation can lay to rest. With talented new MPs – including high-flyers Chuka Umunna and Rachel Reeves, for example, both of whom cut their teeth in the private sector – we have an opportunity to be a dynamic force for progressive enterprise: shaping and influencing business, yes, but also learning from it.
We need to develop that business mentality to be at the core of the modern Labour Party. To learn it, we need to attract and retain more of the Chuka and Rachel calibre of candidate. From the shadow cabinet table to the grassroots, that would change our party’s image – and our capability – for the better. People who have run businesses have had a trying experience, the type of which is needed in every political party. Succeeding in business teaches resilience and determination, agility and snap decision-making. That business mentality will improve Labour’s fundraising, our policy, our organisation, and – most crucially – our understanding of the people we seek to represent, from Essex to Eccles.
I’ve seen that experience already pay dividends in Southwark, where I have helped raise £47,000 for the Labour Party. Our pro-active new approach has attracted keynote speakers from the top of the party: Ed Miliband, Harriet Harman, Yvette Cooper, Chuka Umunna, Ken Livingstone and Alan Johnson – as well as countless local business men and women – have all attended our fundraisers.
The return on their investment is cyclical. In creating enjoyable, accessible social events, we have attracted new members and their friends – and opened up our movement. Their engagement in the local Labour Party importantly brings funding. But more importantly still it also brings a freshness to our campaigning, new energy and new ideas. Their involvement helps boost our party’s image at local, regional and national level. Eventually, the relationships and trust we build deep into business will improve the reputation of the party, and deepen the types of networks on which modern success is often built.
In this economic climate, with the government letting people down and the economy changing rapidly, our task is all the more important. Conventional job opportunities are becoming increasingly scarce. More people are becoming self-employed, or employed in part-time work. Some will set up businesses rather than join the dole, and scrap to make them succeed. That’s something to be encouraged. As throughout our history – but for a new and different era – Labour must be on the side of those hard-working people, struggling to get on.
That’s how I started my career. I was educated in India’s state schools, and initially struggled in business – but I persevered and have had a wonderful journey. That’s also what attracted me to the Labour Party – the party of the many – and one that, as times get tougher, must be on the side of the entrepreneur, the small shopkeeper, the private dentist, the consultant and the public sector worker alike.