On Monday the 5th of March 2018, SME4Labour held its 2nd annual parliamentary reception in the Jubilee Room of the Palace of Westminster. A selection of photos from the evening can be found here.
SME4Labour works to bring together small business owners and the self-employed with members of the party at all levels, and the room was packed with people from small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and the labour movement. This included many Labour councillors, peers and members of parliament, alongside a variety of entrepreneurs, trade unionists and community activists.
Shadow Minister for Small Business Bill Esterson, who kindly hosted the evening in parliament, spoke passionately about the issues facing SMEs and how a Labour government would take action to help them. His comments were echoed by Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy Chi Onwurah, who detailed the policy measures being developed by the Labour Party, including a series of regional development banks. She was followed by Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Debbie Abrahams, who spoke about the work she had done to tackle the damage done by late payments to small businesses. Shadow Treasury Minister Anneliese Dodds then gave her family’s own experiences of running small businesses, and emphasised the need for tax reform to level the playing field with larger companies. Deputy Mayor of London for Business Rajesh Agrawal elucidated on the efforts being made to support SMEs by the local administration in London. While, Kat Fletcher, a London regional organiser for the Labour party, issued a rallying call ahead of the local elections, asking business people to get involved in the campaign.
Joint General Secretary of National Education Union Kevin Courtney added the voice of the trade union movement, with comments criticising the government’s cuts to education and the need for further investment in education to provide the skills and training necessary for a successful economy. A point that was also made by Hannah Reed, Senior Employment Rights Officers at the Trade Union Congress, who said that it is the economy thet benefits most from a close working relationship between businesses and unions.
The keynote speech of the night came from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell who gave a wide-ranging set of remarks on how the Labour Party was the natural home for SMEs. In particular, he criticised the government for “being in office but not in power”, saying that the legislature was paralysed by Tory infighting over Brexit while the rest of the country continued to suffer the devastating effects of austerity. He called on Chancellor Phillip Hammond to use the Spring Statement to invest in the future of the economy, and in particular to help local councils crippled by cuts to their budget.
The evening ended with a networking reception, with the room buzzing with ideas being discussed and connections made.