POLITICS
05/02/2015 04:41 GMT | Updated 05/02/2015 10:59 GMT

Ed Miliband Is Talking, But Business Isn't Listening, Warns Adviser

Ed Miliband, leader of the U.K. opposition Labour Party, gestures as he addresses delegates at the party's annual conference in Manchester, U.K., on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. Miliband will today offer voters a 10-year vision of the U.K. if his opposition Labour Party wins power in next year's general election, focusing on bread-and-butter issues such as housing, jobs and pay. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Ed Miliband, leader of the U.K. opposition Labour Party, gestures as he addresses delegates at the party's annual conference in Manchester, U.K., on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. Miliband will today offer voters a 10-year vision of the U.K. if his opposition Labour Party wins power in next year's general election, focusing on bread-and-butter issues such as housing, jobs and pay. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ed Miliband is failing to sell Labour's policies to the business community, one of his advisers has admitted, as the party drew a fresh wave of criticism from party donors and business chiefs.

Tony Roulstone, a former Rolls-Royce executive who is now a course director at Cambridge University, told the Huffington Post UK: "Labour has very positive business policies on: Europe, on expanding business banking, on developing skills and training, and on stimulating the industries of tomorrow through small high growth businesses.

"These messages do not seem to be being sufficiently well explained and hence not heard."

Roulstone was appointed vice-chair of the party's Small Business Taskforce, the body Miliband set up in 2010 to provide ideas for Labour to consider in its policy review. He also served on the party's defence procurement review.

The Cambridge academic admitted it was "probably true" that Miliband has not tried to court businesspeople as strongly as his predecessors, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, but insisted it was "not necessarily a negative", and that "much of this noise [from business critics] is not well informed".

See more on General Election 2015

Ed Balls embarrassingly derailed Labour's attempted pro-business fightback on Tuesday night when he failed to remember the name of the chair of the party's small business taskforce, Bill Thomas, with whom he claimed to have just dined.

Ed Balls tries to remember who "Bill" is on Newsnight (from 5.53 minutes in)

The Labour frontbencher described him as a "big supporter" and former chief executive of tech and outsourcing firm EDS, but admitted his name "has just gone from my head".

Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis was left to archly conclude: "Frankly you’ve got Bill somebody. Have we got anyone else?.... Now we’ve got Bill somebody."

bill thomas labourBill Thomas, the man Ed Balls couldn't remember on Newsnight

Balls' memory lapse has not stopped a renewed wave of critics sticking their heads above the parapet. Lord Levene, ex-chairman of Lloyd’s of London, accused Labour of being "determined to talk down the economy to score political points".

Assem Allam, one of Labour's biggest donors, savaged the party's stance towards businesspeople, following Miliband's rebuke to Boots boss Stefano Pessina after he suggested the party would be a "catastrophe" in government.

Dr Allam, owner of the Premier League football club Hull City, said that Labour treated successful businessmen as if “they should go away and die”.

He told the Times: “Stefano Pessina — we need him, he doesn’t need us. If he made a comment related to Labour policies, I expect Labour’s reply to relate to policy, you don’t attack the person. You don’t want to drive the businessmen away.”

Speaking earlier this week, Miliband said in response to Pessina's attack that "people won't take kindly to someone who avoids paying their taxes telling them how to vote".

Other businesspeople have been more supportive of the party. Bill Grimsey, former CEO of Wickes and Iceland, told HuffPost UK that another five years of Tory-LibDem coalition would be a "disaster".

The business guru, who now advises Labour on how to save the high streets, went on: "I do not believe that another five years of this kind of this government is the way forward. I actually do believe that investment in the economy and a different approach. I'd support a Labour government next time around."

Grimsey warned business leaders, like former M&S boss Stuart Rose, against wading into political debates. "I certainly don't agree that businesspeople should enter politics," he said. "I totally disagree with SIr Stuart Rose, working with the right wing rag the Daily Mail in order to influence the British public. I think we should stay out of it."

Lord Myners, a former chairman of Marks & Spencer and Treasury minister in Gordon Brown's government, said that Labour was "pro responsible business" and needed to "talk in a language that business understands".

The peer, now chairman of the London School of Economics, said: "Labour needs to get this message over. It needs to talk in a language that business understands. It needs to make clear that a successful economy is a critical condition to a fair and just society."

Meanwhile, Lord Allen, chair of Global Radio and a longtime Labour supporter, praised Labour for seeking to build a "team' between government and business.

The Labour peer wrote in the Daily Mirror: “There is a lesson I have learned from running half a dozen major companies, being part of the London Olympics and Paralympics Committee and Chairman of the Manchester Commonwealth Games."