Cameron Facing Election Tells U.K. Employers to Pay More

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U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, who’s seeking re-election in less than three months, will urge employers to pay their staff more.

In an address to the British Chambers of Commerce in London Tuesday, Cameron will seek to exploit the opposition Labour Party’s difficulties over its relations with business. He’ll address Labour’s principal criticism of his Conservative government, that real wages have fallen during his term of office.

Cameron will say that, with the price of oil down and the economy continuing to grow, there’s a case for paying employees more. Unlike Labour’s Ed Miliband, who has chosen to confront business when he wants it to change course, the prime minister will say he’s on his audience’s side.

“For us, business is not a conspiracy of runaway profits, depressed wages, inequality and unfairness,” Cameron will say, according to his office. “It is the best generator of growth, wealth, work and opportunity there is. There would be no better way to demonstrate that right now than to give Britain a pay rise.”

Polls show the parties of Cameron and Miliband on course to win a similar number of seats, both short of a parliamentary majority. The U.K.’s general election will be held on May 7.

Neither side has a purely positive offer for business. While Labour is pledging regulation to force energy companies not to increase prices, Cameron is committed to a referendum on leaving the European Union.

Biggest Risk

In a research note Monday, Brian Hilliard, chief U.K. economist at Societe Generale SA in London, described this promise as “the biggest adverse risk” facing the country.

It’s a theme that Labour’s finance spokesman, Ed Balls, took up in his own speech to the BCC.

“We have to be robust and reject the Luddite view of those who think Britain can just cut ourselves adrift from the EU and the global economy and go it alone,” said Balls, whose party opposes holding any referendum. “Britain walking out of the EU is the biggest risk to our economy in the next decade.”

This point was taken up by BCC Director General John Longworth, who told the BBC that the referendum date should be brought forward from late 2017, because “2 1/2 years of uncertainty isn’t good for growth and investment.”

Balls rejected that proposal, saying that “every hint that a referendum could happen as early as next year, before any meaningful reform agenda could be achieved, only adds to the uncertainty and risk for British businesses.”

In a boost for Labour, Ecotricity Group Ltd., which builds wind turbines, said it’s giving 250,000 pounds ($380,000) to the party. To put that in perspective, a Tory fundraising auction Monday night saw 210,000 pounds paid for a single lot, a small bronze statue of Margaret Thatcher, according to Buzzfeed.