Monday, 6 February 2012

Is the UK really anti-business?

The backlash against the backlash has truly begun. Fred, formerly Sir Fred, mustn’t be able to believe his luck as the great and good pile in to tell us all that it is terribly unfair. Even Alistair Darling who savaged him in his memoirs has come out for Sir Fred!

Most worrying though is the concern of a number of industry leaders who have voiced the opinion that the ‘stripping’ of Fred (apologies for that little mental image) could be perceived as anti-business. I think there are a number of points to make on this one.

Firstly, this story and the anti-business claims need to be seen in their party political context. The Government was bounced into this following Stephen Hester’s bonus fiasco. It needed a sacrificial lamb to give the voters some raw meat and try and claw back the initiative from Ed Miliband who is gaining some traction with the ‘fairness’ line of attack. Fred was the lamb and the anti-business claims are a natural follow-on to try and discredit the Opposition’s motives and convince voters that Labour is vacating the centre ground of politics.

Secondly, the City of London is not UK business. It is a part of UK business (admittedly quite a large part) but there are other parts of the economy beyond financial services. The national media’s almost exclusive obsession with the City and publicly quoted companies obscures the fact that there is business beyond the Square Mile.

Finally, the most vociferous voices I have heard on the subject of bank lending and bonuses have come from business, particularly SMEs who continue to struggle with raising bank finance.

So despite what you may read, the answer to the question is ‘no’ the UK is not anti-business, but if the great and the good continue with this line of attack it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy!


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