City influence would rise under Cameron

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The City is set to have much greater sway under a Conservative government, with at least 50 MPs drawn from financial services backgrounds to bolster the Square Mile’s fund-raising links to David Cameron, according to research.

A Tory victory at the general election would herald a switch in the make-up of the Commons, according to analysis of the sitting MPs and candidates in target seats.

Assuming a bare Conservative working majority – 326 Tory seats versus 234 Labour – the incoming government would have about 140 MPs from business backgrounds, including a substantial 50-plus cohort with experience in banking, finance and insurance.

The preponderance of MPs from teaching and other public sector backgrounds under Labour rule would end. The greater the Tory majority, the bigger the City and business contingents of MPs, the research suggests.

“The new Commons, with whatever size of Conservative victory, will see the reasserted dominance of the private sector over the public sector MP,” said Byron Criddle, co-author of The Almanac of British Politics, which conducted the analysis.

Jonathan Isaby, co-editor of the Conservativehome website, said its profiling of candidates in 200 Tory seats – more than 75 of whom come from a business background – revealed “an incredible range of experience, from people who’ve had senior roles in the City to people working in small family firms, and quite a considerable number who have set up their own small businesses from scratch.”

Mr Cameron will be keen to play down the City connection as he seeks to focus on Middle England at this week’s crucial party conference, portraying the Conservatives as a party for the aspiring.

The Tory leader responded to the public ire over bankers at last year’s conference – held at the height of the financial crisis – by accusing Labour of seeking to “suck up to business”. George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, insisted the Tories were “not bedazzled by big money” and would “not fawn over” wealth-creation.

Such sentiments sit slightly awkwardly with the profile of some aspirant Tory MPs.

A case in point is Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Conservative candidate for North East Somerset – a newly created constituency arising from boundary changes with a small notional Conservative majority. Mr Rees-Mogg, the Eton-educated son of a former editor of The Times, has in the past been parodied in press reports for campaigning in his Bentley, accompanied by his nanny.

But Mr Rees-Mogg’s City background is less at odds with his party than the leadership’s platform sentiments of last year might suggest. The Tories’ rhetorical distancing from the City has been matched by a less public cultivating of strong links with the Square Mile.

Mr Cameron has recruited two of the most powerful City figures – Michael Spencer, the billionaire chief executive of interdealer broker Icap, and Stanley Fink, former chief executive of hedge fund Man Group – to act as the party’s co-treasurers. Mr Cameron has also overseen the creation of a network of fund-raising groups, where big donors – many from the City – get access to the Tory leadership.

Business on Friday called on Mr Cameron to “come clean” this week in Manchester on the Tories’ implicit strong support for business. “What we want coming out of the conference is a very strong sense of a pro-business commitment,” said Miles Templeman, director-general of the Institute of Directors.

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