Leslie appeals to Corbyn not to draw battle lines with business

Chris Leslie
Chris Leslie
Have your say

Labour’s former shadow chancellor Chris Leslie has issued an appeal to Jeremy Corbyn not to draw up “battle lines” with the business community on issues like nationalisation and capital controls.

Mr Leslie - who refused to serve in Mr Corbyn’s front bench team - said the new leader and shadow chancellor John McDonnell should be given time and space to “set out their stall” and show what their attitude towards business would be.

But he urged them to tone down “aggressive” rhetoric which would put business off the party.

He dodged questions over whether Mr McDonnell would make a good chancellor, telling BBC1’s Sunday Politics: “I think that’s for the public to decide.”

Challenged over whether he wants Mr Corbyn to be PM in 2020, he replied: “Look, I want a Labour government, of course I want a Labour prime minister, but what I think we’ve got to do most of all is convince the public. It’s not going to be my decision, the public are going to be looking at the choices.”

The Nottingham East MP, who backed Yvette Cooper in the leadership contest, warned that Labour risks being “laughed out of court” if it attempts to persuade voters it has a “magical solution” which can deal with the deficit without controlling public spending or raising taxes.

Speaking at a meeting of the Blairite group Progress on the fringe of Labour’s annual conference in Brighton, Mr Leslie said Mr Corbyn’s proposal for “people’s quantitative easing” is “not a viable way forward for the economy”.

He said: “If we try to hoodwink or kid people that there is some magic solution to this, we will be laughed out of court.

“The reason I couldn’t serve on the front bench going forward was the adoption of the money-printing - ‘people’s quantitative easing’, as they call it. This notion that there was this magical solution that no longer necessitated controlling public expenditure or addressing issues on taxation.

“I just don’t think that short-circuiting how you get back into living within your means is a viable way forward.”

Mr Leslie called for “clarity” from Mr McDonnell in his conference speech on Monday over whether the party will back Chancellor George Osborne’s plan for a rule to require future governments to run a surplus.

“John McDonnell said a week ago that George Osborne’s surplus law - which is being voted on on October 14 - was barmy,” said the former shadow chancellor.

“This week, he is suggesting we could vote for it. There needs to be some clarity about this in his speech tomorrow.”

Asked whether he believed the new leadership team could make Labour attractive to business, Mr Leslie said: “I think it’s only fair that they have the full chance to set out properly what their attitudes are to business and where we need to be.

“I would appeal to John and the front bench team just to be careful with the rhetoric and to make sure that they are not so aggressive in the terms of the tone that we have.

“Talking about nationalisation without compensation, talking about capital controls, dialogue with business organisations that come to party conference - all of those things matter and I think we’ve got to be constructive as a party and have an open dialogue, not be entrenched into battle lines drawn. I think that would be the wrong thing to do.”