Finance bosses state their wishes ahead of UK election

With the election next month, some of the loudest voices in the financial district of London have said what policies they would like to see in party manifestos. A financier and former pensions adviser to Boris Johnson during his tenure as the mayor for London, Edi Truell, said: “I would like to see a radical simplification of the pension system. Inland revenue always come up with silly ideas why they want to make it so byzantine. It’s also controversial but I would actually stop pensions tax relief.”
An economist and adviser to the Arbuthnot Banking Group, Ruth Lea, added: “Given the state of the public finances there is probably limited scope for tax cuts. But if there are tax cuts, they should focus on business rates to help hard pressed retailers.”
Chief executive of British Retail Consortium, Helen Dickenson agreed, saying the taxes on brick-and-mortar retailers “remain the biggest driver of store closures and job losses in the industry.
The next government should scrap ‘downwards transition’, which forces retailers to pay £1.3bn more than they owe over five years.” Boss of the British Chamber of Commerce, Adam Marshall, wanted any incoming government to urgently recommit to delivering both HS2 (high speed rail) and the third runway at Heathrow airport.
“Any move to row back from these decisions would undermine business confidence and damage our reputation as a place to invest,” he said.
Head of trade group London First, Jasmine Whitbread, said the government needs to focus on four areas: “On connectivity, the next government must commit to investing at least 1.2 per cent of GDP each year on infrastructure. On immigration, it should set the salary threshold at around £20,000 so London can retain and attract the workforce it needs. On housing, we need to see a commitment to more public money, investment and land, and better ways of building, including a review of the Green Belt; and on tax, annual reviews of business rates and greater local flexibility around reliefs.”
While parliament had been bracing itself for next month’s election, it doesn’t mean all MPs are ready or entirely happy, about the prospects. Labour MPs have been most vocal about it, with divisions between the Leader of the Opposition’s office and the rest of the party laid bare as MPs reacted with dismay and disbelief as Jeremy Corbyn backed his rival Boris Johnson in going to the polls.
But Conservative MPs are also nervous — not least those in London and the south-east, with the campaign under Dominic Cummings expected to focus on pro-Leave Labour seats in the Midlands and the north. Those in seats held by “rich Remainers”, as Cummings once derided London voters, are particularly worried. Among workers in the financial district, the election has elicited mixed reactions.
Some were optimistic, saying the election would give the conservatives a resounding majority, and a subsequent mandate to remove Britain from the EU.
In calling an election, a frustrated Johnson had said: “There is only one way to get Brexit done in the face of relentless parliamentary obstructionism and that is to refresh this parliament and give people a new choice.”
The capital has some of the most tantalising marginal seats, including Kensington, where Labour’s Emma Dent Coad has a majority of just 20 — or 0.05 per cent. That is being targeted by Tory-turned-Lib Dem MP and vocal Remain campaigner Sam Gyimah.
The Lib Dems could cause quite a headache for London-based Conservatives. Ex-Labour MP Luciana Berger is taking on Conservative Mike Freer in two London boroughs, where he has a slim 1,657 majority. And Chuka Umunna hopes to win Cities of Westminster and London, with Tory incumbent Mark Field standing down.
With a majority of 45, former London mayoral candidate, Zac Goldsmith’s Richmond Park will also be an important battle ground, while former home minister Amber Rudd’s seat in Hastings and Rye up for grabs with her having resigned. She won in 2017 with a majority of just 346 (0.32 per cent).
The Prime Minister’s own seat of Uxbridge will almost certainly be targeted by opposition parties looking to embarrass Johnson, not least after Labour managed to narrow his margin to only 5,034 in 2017.
With so many variables, it’s hard to say how the election will pan out, but as polls currently show, Johnson is progressing well in lead. (The author is our foreign correspondent based in the UK. He can be reached at andyjalil@aol.com)