There was much debate after the Tory government once again mooted proposals to force young people to attend ‘employment boot camps’, focusing on unemployed youth who depend on benefits. What Labour needs to provide is a positive alternative for young people. It can do this by supporting small- and medium-sized enterprises and provide the means to encourage young people to consider starting their own businesses.

Last year’s figures show that 99.3 per cent of all private sector businesses, nearly half of all private sector jobs and a third of private sector turnover in the United Kingdom are SMEs. They employed some 15.2 million people and had a combined turnover of £1.6tn. It is for this reason that SME4Labour, a group which puts small and medium enterprises at the heart of the pro-growth Labour agenda, has been formed.

While unemployment rates for young people are improving through increased take up of apprenticeships, for example, there is still much which needs to be done. Small businesses need to be incentivised and supported in the battle against youth unemployment. If we are to ensure that the coming generations continue to see an increase in living standards – as opposed to the drop forecast – we need to encourage their involvement in the backbone of British industry and society.

Not only will the involvement of young people in SMEs benefit growth in business and trade, it will also lead to change within local communities. Local businesses have the ability to effect change in their immediate areas and beyond. Whether it is sport, local charities, culture or other endeavours, many of these areas are naturally brimming with bright, motivated and conscientious young people. The opportunities from such links should not be underestimated.

Furthermore it is young people, through small businesses, who can lead a start-up revolution in the UK as we have observed in other countries. For the UK to be competitive on a global scale, it must act as an enabler and offer support. Young people are increasingly connected to the global market, and they are taking advantage of opportunities offered on a European and global level. We must ensure that there is also a positive environment which enables them to develop their businesses here.

This is as true for the north of the country as it is for London. A huge number of small businesses also operate in rural areas. We will provide a forum to discuss the necessary investment in infrastructure so needed to keep Britain competitive in the 21st century.

SME4Labour will lead the charge in ensuring that SMEs are not just at the heart of the economic agenda, but also seen as an enabler of social justice. Support for SMEs is completely in line with Labour’s progressive agenda. As well as strengthening links between employers and communities, we will also encourage strong partnerships with trade unions. Through our work in connecting Labour parliamentarians with the emerging business leaders of their communities, we will ensure that Labour remains a party of business and working people.

Through small and medium enterprises for Labour, we want to provide a forum whereby SMEs can work in partnership with the Labour party and continue to inform our economic policies:

  • SMEs for Labour seeks to strengthen relations between the small, medium, micro, owner- and family-run businesses with the Labour party
  • We support constructive and informed discussion within the Labour movement on issues impacting on SMEs
  • We work closely with trade unions, employers’ groups and individuals, encouraging strong partnerships and collaboration
  • We organise meetings for Labour parliamentarians and others, so that a greater understanding of the challenges faced by SMEs can be gained

We are confident that SME4Labour will play a crucial role in making Labour once again a party of government.