UK Politics

Labour v Boots: A fight Ed Miliband can win?

Ed Miliband Image copyright PA

It is hard to imagine Gordon Brown, and still harder Tony Blair, picking a fight with business leaders like the chief executive of Boots.

But Ed Miliband is less keen to claim British business as a prized convert to the Labour cause; much keener to gain credit - and votes - for taking on powerful interests.

Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, seemed sensitive on Tuesday to the accusation that Labour had turned "anti-business". He insisted most business people were neither Labour nor Tory, and simply wanted what was best for the country.

Yet, Labour's top team are convinced this is a fight they can win.

They're calling the Boots chief executive a "tax exile" living in Monaco, though he's an Italian, not a British expatriate. A quarter of FTSE 100 companies are headed by foreigners.

But Labour's accusation of tax avoidance was helped a little by London's Conservative mayor, Boris Johnson, saying it was "disappointing" Boots was domiciling its headquarters in Switzerland, denying millions to the British taxman.

Now, Labour is challenging the prime minister and his chancellor to echo that disappointment.

Some in the Labour camp hope the row may discourage other business leaders from speaking out too loudly, or too unhelpfully.

They don't admit it is part of a core-vote strategy - preaching to the choir as some sceptics put it - but to many it looks that way.

It's also true to say that Ed Miliband hopes the Labour core vote can be grown with the aid of arguments like this one.

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