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General election: Labour ‘natural party of business’ – as Rachel Reeves defends big pay packets for ‘people at the top’

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Labour is the “natural party of British business” and that includes paying bosses large salaries, the party’s shadow chancellor has said.

In her first major speech of the election campaign, Rachel Reeves sought to persuade voters Labour are now pro-business and pro-workers.

She also said they would bring the UK closer to the European Union, something the party has previously announced, and “bring investment back to Britain”.

Ms Reeves mentioned an open letter sent last night by 120 business leaders backing Labour as evidence the party has changed.

“Today I want to put forward a simple proposition that this changed Labour Party is today the natural party of British business,” she said at Rolls Royce’s factory in Derby.

“The choice before the British people on the 4th of July – five more years of chaos with the Conservative Party leaving working people worse off, or stability with a changed Labour Party.”

Ms Reeves said the Labour Party wants to be a government that is “pro-worker and pro-business in the knowledge that each depends upon the success of the other”.

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Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has said Labour is a changed party. Pic: PA

“I’m not one of those politicians that thinks that the private sector is a dirty word or a necessary evil,” Ms Reeves said.

“I worked in the private sector. Before entering politics, I was in financial services in West Yorkshire.

“I know what a successful business can do for places like those. And I know that economic growth comes from success of business – large, medium and small.”

She said she was not a socialist but a social democrat and is relaxed about company bosses becoming very rich.

“I want businesses to be successful, and that includes paying people at the top properly for the work that they’re doing,” she said.

“But I’m also committed to turning the minimum wage into a real living wage so that ordinary working people also benefit when the economy grows and is successful.”

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The shadow chancellor said Labour would “forge a closer relationship with our nearest neighbours in the European Union to ease the burden of bureaucracy and red tape on British businesses”.

That includes a new veterinary agreement, an agreement on musician touring visas and the mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

She also said Labour would bring investors to the UK “to bring growth back to Britain, to bring hope back to Britain… to deliver a better future for working people”.

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Ms Reeves said Labour’s plan to overhaul workers’ rights, named the “New Deal for Workers”, would give people the “security that should come from working hard… that doesn’t exist today”.

Labour announced the policy a few weeks ago, ahead of the election being called, and it promises to “work with employers and workers, launch a “new partnership with business and trade unions” and “consult fully with businesses, workers and civil society”.

However, the party was accused of “watering down” the deal by union Unite’s general secretary Sharon Graham, who claimed the rebranded version of the plans had “more holes in it than Swiss cheese”.

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