Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna pleaded with business leaders to lay off from making personal attacks on Labour leader Ed Miliband as the row between his party and business threatened to spiral out of control.
Umunna said recent comments by the Boots chief Stefano Pessina, and then by Stuart Rose, the former chairman of M&S, were personally aimed at his party’s leader.
“Business people should contribute to the debate on policy. But recent comments have been very personal and they involve a degree of hyperbole directed at our leader."
“Lots of business people have shown they are capable of debating these things without personalising them,” Umunna added.
The growing row between business chiefs and Miliband began on Sunday when the Boots chair Stefano Pessina was quoted as saying that a Labour government under its leader would be catastrophic for the country.
“If they acted as they speak it would be a catastrophe,” Pessina was quoted as saying, sparking a row over whether Labour was anti-business.
His words prompted a personal attack from Miliband the following day. The Labour leader said he refused to be lectured by a Monaco-based billionaire. Miliband’s attack has since provoked criticism from Lord Rose, and a host of other business leaders.
Brent Hoberman, the internet entrepreneur, last night joined the debate: “Ideally it’s better to attack the team than the person, but in politics you sometimes have to decide where the policy is coming from.”
Umunna said that people should pick up the phone to him if they have any issues regarding the party's policies towards business.
“We were not spoiling for a fight or conflict. In every month of this Parliament we have sought to have a positive and constructive dialogue with business to promote a policy that will help us create wealth creation and growth….I want to build bridges and calm the waters”.