The business community has had a bit of an uneasy relationship with the Labour Party of late.
Last time Labour was in opposition, back in the 1990s, the party launched the “prawn cocktail offensive”, when it wined and dined business leaders in an attempt to convince them that Labour was on their side.
This time around the mood music is a bit different, with party leader Ed Miliband warning that businesses could be “predators” or “producers” – and he’s not scared to take on the predators.
Labour would still insist that it’s on the side of responsible businesses – the vast majority.
But rightly or wrongly, some employers have had their doubts.
Now, Birmingham Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne is trying to bring Labour and the business community back together.
He’s chair of a grouping called the All Party Parliamentary Group on Inclusive Growth.
It aims to ensure the creation of wealth also leads to a more just society or, to put it another way, to ensure the UK’s success is more fairly shared.
This may sound similar to the message coming from the very top of the Labour Party but the difference is that Mr Byrne’s group doesn’t seek to shame bad employers. It starts from the basis that businesses are basically a force for good.
In particular, Mr Byrne believes there are business leaders and entrepreneurs who believe passionately that the purpose of business is to benefit society, and would welcome the chance to work with politicians to ensure that is what happens.
Vice-chairs include the Bishop of Birmingham (who is a Parliamentarian as a member of the House of Lords).
All these all-party groups are supposed to contain MPs from across the political divide, so it’s no surprise that Mr Byrne has convinced some Tories and Lib Dems to join too.
But he’s achieved something of a coup by recruiting Lord Heseltine, the former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister who now acts as an adviser to the Government on a range of business and regional economic development issues.
Next week the group is holding a series of events, including a speech on Wednesday February 4 to be delivered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, on the topic of the “Good Economy”.
An impressive range of figures are then due to offer their own responses, including Sir Michael Rake, President of the CBI; chief executive of the London Stock Exchange Group Xavier Rolet, and TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady.
Leading think tanks will also contribute with a series of essays to be published during the week. They include Policy Exchange and the Social Market Foundation.
And in March, Sir Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership will outline a new agenda for investing in the UK’s workforce.
In a press statement announcing the events, Mr Byrne said: “There is now a growing consensus that for the UK to thrive, success has to be fairly shared.
“And the sooner we find the consensus – between business and government – the faster reform can arrive. We’re delighted that the key players in this debate are now coming together with serious ideas for how we make change happen fast.”
Mr Byrne is actually a Shadow Business Minister (responsible for higher education rather than industry, but reporting to Chuka Umunna, the Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills).
However, he’s done all this on his own initiative rather than in his role as a Labour spokesperson.
It’s an approach Labour could consider embracing, however.
Somebody certainly needs to stand up for the workers. The relationship between an employer and an employee is inherently uneven.
Some staff are indeed able to negotiate with their bosses on something like an equal basis, agreeing to sell their labour at a fair price or regretfully walking away if a deal can’t be reached.
But that’s a pipe-dream for most working people. A certain degree of regulation from government, as well as the efforts of trade unions, are needed to ensure staff have a voice and cannot be treated unfairly.
So Ed Miliband, or any party leader, is right to promise to crack down on firms failing to pay the minimum wage, for example, or which deny staff their legal rights by pretending they are not actually employees when they clearly are.
But Labour’s message is frequently negative. There’s a lot of talk about businesses which make excessive profits. A lot of talk about businesses taking advantage of “broken” markets.
Ed Miliband warned in a recent speech: “Zero hours contracts have exploded, driving down wages and allowing some firms to play havoc with people’s lives.”
And in its campaign against “privatisation” of the NHS, Labour frequently appears to suggest that private firms are not to be trusted because they are motivated by profit - in contrast to people directly employed by the state who are portrayed as inherently more noble.
Some of this might actually be true. Something clearly went horribly wrong in the banking sector, for example.
And Mr Miliband does back what he calls “the wealth creating businesses of the future... that create those good jobs that reward hard work”. He has also announced plans to cut taxes for smaller firms.
But it’s been a long time since Labour really sounded like the party of business.