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Rishi Sunak has named 15 company bosses as advisers on his business council in 2024, as the battle with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to strengthen relations with the corporate world in election year heats up.
The UK prime minister will take advice from chief executives of companies ranging from ScottishPower, the energy supplier, and Lloyds Banking Group, to high street food store Greggs and pharma company OMass Therapeutics.
Downing Street said the council would meet throughout the year so the prime minister could get “intelligence directly from the shop floor to help boost the UK economy and create jobs”.
The announcement came a day before Starmer hosts his own Labour business conference in London, which is expected to be attended by more than 400 business leaders, international investors and ambassadors.
Starmer will tell the audience that “Labour is the party of business”. He will promise that the government will “get under the bonnet, to fix an unprecedented stagnation in British productivity growth” should the party win the general election later this year.
He will also emphasise how much his party has returned to the centre ground since he took over from the hard-left Jeremy Corbyn.
“All the hard work that has taken us to this point is a vindication and a recognition of that guiding belief. Not just that Labour could be the party of business, but that Labour should be the party of business, and that now, four years on, Labour is the party of business,” he will say.
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves earlier this week said she had no plans to restore a cap on bankers’ bonuses and vowed to “unashamedly champion” the sector if Labour won the election.
Sunak has been struggling to repair his party’s relations with business after the turbulence of Brexit, the anti-business rhetoric of former prime minister Boris Johnson and the financial chaos that surrounded Liz Truss’s brief premiership.
Franck Petitgas, a former Morgan Stanley executive and Sunak’s business and investment adviser, has helped to repair some of that damage and was involved in assembling the new business council.
When Sunak convened the first meeting of his 2023 council last July, it lasted only 45 minutes. People working for the companies involved said there was only limited opportunity for serious exchanges.
The prime minister said he wanted to have regular updates from his new council “on how well we are doing in delivering for business”.
Quarterly meetings will also be held in Downing Street to hear the views of small and medium-sized companies, alongside those represented on the business council.
The business council is more diverse than last year’s panel, which consisted almost exclusively of publicly listed companies on London’s blue-chip FTSE 100 index.
The new council includes computer manufacturer Raspberry Pi, which is weighing a UK stock market listing on which some City advisers are pinning their hopes for a revival of London’s moribund IPO market.
Also included are Castore, the clothing brand backed by tennis player Andy Murray, and Northern Ireland-based Almac Group, which sells services to drugmakers.
The full list of companies on the 2024 council is: BT Group, Nationwide, Unilever, Rolls-Royce, ScottishPower, Almac Group, Barratt Developments, ITV, Lloyds Banking Group, OMass Therapeutics, Raspberry Pi, Principality Building Society, Informed Solutions, Castore and Greggs.