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Rishi Sunak starts charm offensive with big business to kick-start economic growth


Rishi Sunak will launch a charm offensive with business today as he seeks to repair relations and kick-start economic growth.

The prime minister will attend a conference this morning with 200 chief executives and other senior business leaders as he seeks ideas to revive Britain’s faltering economy. He will also take questions from business leaders on a LinkedIn Live online event.

The event will be seen as an opportunity to improve the government’s relationships with business after years of tension over issues such as Brexit, criticism by Boris Johnson and the economic chaos of the Liz Truss premiership. It is designed to show that Sunak is listening to companies.

Labour is mounting a determined challenge to win over business support, with Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, meeting senior executives almost every week and having had breakfasts and coffees with about 400 business chiefs so far.

Sunak is expected to say at the event today that he has spoken to “over 1,000 business people” since taking office last year as he lavishes praise on “the innovators and change-makers at the heart of our economy, supporting jobs, attracting investment and driving growth”.

He will say that the Business Connect event in London is a “fantastic opportunity to demonstrate how we are growing the economy. We are bringing together some of the UK’s biggest companies and investors for meaningful dialogue — and I’m a prime minister passionate about working with business to unlock opportunity and progress.”

Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, said: “We want the UK to be the best place in the world to start, grow and invest in a business. At [the] spring budget we took steps to reduce business taxation, boost access to talent and get smarter with our regulation — and that was just the beginning. It’s absolutely vital that we’re listening to — and working with — industry leaders, innovators and disruptors as we deliver on our priority to grow the economy.”

Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow business secretary, said: “Businesses can see Labour has changed. We are serious about partnering with firms to achieve the economic growth and prosperity that has been sorely lacking under the Conservatives. The Conservatives can’t hide their record of failure.”

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