UK Politics

Mind your language on business, Mandelson tells Miliband

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Media captionLord Mandelson said being opposition leader was a "horrible job"

Lord Mandelson has backed Ed Miliband's business policies but suggested the Labour leader risks alienating entrepreneurs with his "body language".

Mr Miliband's attitude towards business has been under the spotlight following a spat with Boots boss Stefano Pessina.

Speaking in the United Arab Emirates, Lord Mandelson told the BBC Mr Miliband had the right policies to boost skills and infrastructure investment.

But he said it was important to adopt the right tone.

"You must never use language or even body language, let alone what you say, that creates the impression that you are for or against any section of society, of the economy," said the former business secretary.

"We need people working together, there has to be a collaboration between business and government, between politicians and entrepreneurs."

He added: "I think that Ed Miliband and the Labour Party are bringing forward policies both which will support business.

"He's got to plough on through this campaign being true to himself, setting out clearly what he believes in."

'Hugely destabilising'

Asked about the role of being Leader of the Opposition - as a former advisor to Lord Kinnock when he was Labour leader, Lord Mandelson said: "It's horrible, it's never ending, the press is fiendish, the media seems to exist to give you a hard time, but look, that's life."

Mr Miliband went on the offensive after Mr Pessina said a Labour government would be a "catastrophe," saying the Monaco-based tycoon should stop lecturing voters and "start paying his taxes".

Other senior business figures joined in with the criticism of Mr Miliband, who has vowed to "stand up" to vested interests and crack down on tax avoidance, although Labour loyalists, such as Tony Blair's former fundraiser Lord Levy and home shopping magnate John Mills, rallied behind him.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls sought to build bridges with the business community earlier, with a speech to the British Chambers of Commerce annual conference.

He began by joking about his gaffe on the BBC's Newsnight when he could not remember the name of leading Labour business supporter Bill Thomas, before warning that Conservative plans for an EU referendum were "hugely destabilising" for business.

"Britain must lead the debate for reform in the EU. Banging the table for change and for the EU to work better for Britain. But not flirting with exit and putting party interest above the national economic interest," he told the gathering.

Lord Mandelson said that the prospect of an EU referendum was having "a really strong negative effect on inward investment in our country," adding that "the sooner done and dealt with and done and dusted the better, but the threat shouldn't be made in the first place."

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