This year’s Annual Conference was the first to be held during a General Election period – and Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson all took to the stage to position themselves as the allies of business.
They all set out their party’s solutions to the ongoing Brexit uncertainty which was damaging levels of investment and holding back UK economic potential – whether that was “getting it done”, “sorting it within a matter of months” or “stopping it on day one”.
But they also answered the CBI’s call for the next government to work with business on some of the biggest issues of the day.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson talked about “uniting and levelling up the country”.
“I absolutely, passionately believe that around this amazing country talent, genius, flair, are evenly distributed, but opportunity is unevenly distributed. And yet the answers are within our grasp. Our ambition is to unlock the whole nation's potential through three things: better infrastructure, better education and technology,” he said.
He explained investment in these things would drive a chain reaction of increased business investment and confidence delivering more jobs and spurring regeneration.
“And that’s why I think this country needs a government that believes in business and understands the vital important of wealth creation,” he added.
Read more about what Johnson's speech means for business on My CBI.
Jeremy Corbyn immediately tackled claims he was anti-business – emphasising instead the importance of doing good business, and promising business-friendly investment in education, world-leading infrastructure and transport.
He also welcomed the “three great challenges” in the CBI’s manifesto – ensuring every young person has the skills they need; reducing the blight of inequality; and tackling the climate and environmental emergency.
“On the importance of all three, we're in agreement. All three are central to Labour's plan to rebuild and transform Britain. And I'm pleased that the CBI has made it clear that to meet those challenges we need change. And you have said that the CBI is ready to play its part,” he said. “That's music to my ears because despite the impression sometimes given in parts of the press, Labour doesn't believe the state can do that alone.”
Get the detail behind Corbyn's proposals on My CBI.
Jo Swinson kicked off with the power of business to do good. “We are lucky to have such a dynamic, pioneering business community that creates jobs and enables investment,” she said. “Government and business need to work together.
Focusing on investment in infrastructure and on climate change, with a plan to make the UK a global leader in green jobs and technology, she added that business was part of the solution.
“My vision is for a country where business joins forces with government, public services and civil society to create the kind of society we deserve."
The CBI's Head of Campaigns unpacks Swinson's speech on My CBI.