The Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) was recently invited by Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP, to join him and other party spokesmen at the Labour Party’s State of the Economy conference at Imperial College in London on 28 May.

Mr McDonnell and party leader, Jeremy Corbyn MP, outlined current Labour thinking and gave their economic and industrial outlook to a specially-invited business audience.

Labour is looking at ways to expand local authority mortgage lending, and Mr McDonnell wants councils to copy Manchester, Sandwell and Warrington Councils by offering cheap, local authority-backed mortgages to help first-time buyers and boost levels of home ownership. He reaffirmed the party’s policy, which is to build 100,000 new council houses a year, paid for by savings in Housing Benefit.

On being invited to attend the conference, Brett Amphlett, policy and public affairs’ manager at the BMF, said: “It’s easy to ignore the Labour Party because they lost two elections and have had three party leaders in 10 years. But that’s a mistake. Labour has 229 of the 650 MPs in the House of Commons, 210 out of 802 peers in the House of Lords, and 20 of the UK’s 73 MEPs in the European Parliament.

“Away from Westminster, Labour is still a force in politics and government. The elected mayors of London, Liverpool, Salford and Bristol are Labour, as is Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales. Thirteen of the 41 police and crime commissioners are Labour. They also control significant local authorities, not all of which are in Northern England. Cambridge, Luton, Reading, Crawley, Hastings, Southampton and Plymouth are notable examples of Labour-controlled councils.”

Despite losing last year’s election, the Labour Party has been rebuilding existing links with business representatives like the BMF. For several years, the Federation has enjoyed good relations with Labour since it began attending all the Party Political Conferences in autumn 2009.

Since Christmas, the BMF has met Labour representatives to discuss housing, small businesses, vocational training, and taxation - and to explain the role, value and importance of merchants and the Federation itself. When lobbying Parliament this year, the BMF briefed Labour MPs on several occasions - verbally and in writing - as MPs debated both the Housing & Planning Bill and the Enterprise Bill. Issues raised by the BMF included easing Change of Use Classes when granting planning permission for property conversions, and late payments and cash retentions in construction.