By boycotting G4S and putting its party conference in jeopardy, Labour has cut off its nose to spite its face

Emma Haslett
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G4S' corporate reputation may not be perfect - but neither is Labour's (Source: Getty)

Amid the mud-slinging which has made up the Labour Party’s leadership contest, you might have missed this nugget: Labour’s annual conference is on the brink of being cancelled because it finds itself without a security detail.

In doing so, it is potentially alienating thousands of voters - and not just because they won’t be able to go on their annual jolly to Liverpool this September.

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As keen Labour-watchers will remember, the party’s National Executive Committee voted last year to boycott G4S, which had handled security at the conference for 20 years. Now the GMB union has asked Labour to cut its ties with Showsec, the only company bidding for the contract to run security at this year’s conference, after talks between the two about union recognition broke down this week.

The police have politely informed Jeremy Corbyn that, if he cannot find a company to supply the security, he will not be allowed to run the conference, which Labour’s website bills as “one of the largest and most high profile political events in Europe”. Awkward.

The incident recalls another, similar decision by Labour in April, when it banned McDonald’s from promoting its British farm produce at the party conference, throwing away £30,000 in the process. A couple of months after the ban came to light, McDonald’s unveiled plans to create 5,000 new jobs in the UK.

At the time, Labour was branded “snobbish” by one of its own backbenchers, Wes Streeting, who had a part-time job at McDonald’s as a teenager. And it is snobbish: McDonalds’ corporate reputation hasn’t always been sterling, but nor has Labour’s political reputation.

With sweeping bans like this, Labour is cutting off its nose to spite its face, ignoring the fact many of the UK’s largest businesses are where they are because they are experts in their field. And treating corporates as though they are faceless entities ignores an even more potent factor: hundreds of thousands of its own voters are employed by these companies.

Back in April, Streeting lamented that “McDonald’s may not be the trendy falafel bar that some people in politics like to hang out at, but it’s enjoyed by families across the country”. Corbyn cannot change the world by banishing companies which don’t conform to his Islington fantasy.

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