After appointing an HSBC employee for its shadow business team, Labour has been under fire for granting global banking access to the parliament despite the financial behemoth receiving criticism for its ties to China.
The shadow business secretary, Jonathan Renolds, has one of the senior policy managers as one of the team members who has been given a parliamentary pass since February.
Since the HSBC employee is working part-time in the bank and part-time as a contribution in kind to the party rather than him personally, the secondment has not been disclosed on his MPs’ register of interests.
The move comes after Reynolds had previously seconded a NatWest employee to help with the business liaison and hired another from a lobbying firm last year.
As relations were tense in Jeremy Corbyn’s era, the Labor Party has been continuously trying hard to show its willingness to work more constructively with business under Keir Starmer.
In 2022, the business day at the Labor Party was overcrowded with firms and lobbying companies trying hard to seek the party’s attention as a result of its significant lead in the polls. It has made this clear in its secondment by insisting on a clear division between work done for the party and work done for the employer during a placement.
Since the closeness to the Chinese government and the treatment of those leaving Hong Kong, the HSBC policy manager’s presence in the shadow business team has been the target of criticism by the pressure groups.
A campaign group pressing for a more democratic society, the director of Unlock Democracy, Tom Brake, stated: “Political parties should tread very carefully when inviting business secondees into the heart of their teams: firstly because those businesses will have their own agenda and priorities, and secondly because of the reputational risk of making the wrong choice.”
“Picking HSBC as a partner, which attracted much criticism over its stance on Hong Kong, is a questionable decision.”
One critic of HSBC on China, the former Conservative leader, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, further stated: “HSBC’s record on China is appalling, freezing the pensions of British nationals overseas who left Hong Kong, having been told by China. You do begin to wonder if Labour feel secure in having HSBC sitting on their shoulder.”
A left-leaning pressure organization inside the Labour Party, Momentum, criticized the secondment, calling it “frankly alarming” to have a banking industry representative on a Labour team.
The group’s spokesperson stated: “For Labour to be in bed with banks like HSBC at any time represents a worrying capitulation to corporate interests. For this news to emerge weeks after HSBC announced that it had doubled its quarterly profits to £4.3 billion is even more galling. While millions struggle to make ends meet in a cost of living crisis, Labor is working hand in glove with profiteering bankers.”
“The Labour leadership’s cosying up to the City of London isn’t just out of touch with the public mood. It risks the party embracing another disastrous round of deregulation in the name of freeing up private financing. Instead, Labour should be laying out a plan to tax bankers’ windfall profits, rein in bonuses, and put our financial system to the work of people and planet.”
Donations are increasingly coming from business and traditional trade union donors, with the help of Tony Blair’s former fundraiser, Lord Levy. During the New Labor and Miliband eras, they received donations from a former financier and businessman, Trevor Chinn, and the former chairman of Lloyds Banking Group, Victor Blank. Both have now started donating again after Stramer became leader. The daughter of Lord Sainsbury, Fran Perrin, who is part of the supermarket dynasty, has also contributed £250,000 this year to the party.
A spokesperson from HSBC stated: “HSBC maintains a politically neutral position. We regularly engage with a range of policymakers on issues affecting our customers.”
When questioned on its position regarding the controversy in Hong Kong, the bank said that it has “an enduring commitment to Hong Kong, its people and communities” but that “like all banks, we have to obey the law, and the instructions of the regulators, in every territory—including Hong Kong—in which we operate.”
- Published By Team Timeswire