Politicians must get their own house in order before lecturing business - Greg Wright

DURING election season, everybody wants to be the friend of business.

Prime minister, Boris Johnson speaking at the CBI annual conference at the InterContinental Hotel in London. PA Photo. Picture date: Monday November 18, 2019. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Politicians of all parties are keen to display feelings of goodwill towards entrepreneurs who keep our economic wheels turning.

But the relationship between business and politics is often fraught with misunderstandings. Many career politicians have no real grasp of the stresses and strains of running a company. Business leaders hate red tape and complex tax systems, which are often created by the political class.

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Politicians don’t like to appear to be soft on big firms who display qualities associated with “fat cat” pay structures and boardroom excess.

Budding Prime Ministers often display a puritanical streak when facing a business audience, because they believe it plays well with the wider electorate, who are often suspicious of big corporate names.

So there may well have been groans at the CBI conference when Boris Johnson pledged to postpone further corporation tax cuts in a bid to divert £6 billion to the “priorities of the British people”.

The Prime Minister said such a change is the “fiscally responsible thing to do at the present time” and said the NHS was among the services expected to receive money as a result.

His announcement at the annual CBI conference during a speech in which he also outlined a desire to push on with “uniting and levelling up” the country.

Mr Johnson said if the country’s potential is “enormous then so is the injustice”, pointing to regions of the country lagging behind London.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the PM had announced a “temporary pause in the Tories’ race to the bottom” on corporation tax.

It came as Jeremy Corbyn vowed to put an end to the “tax tricks” that allow the “biggest corporations to avoid paying their way”.

The Labour leader dismissed as “nonsense” claims that he is anti-business, and instead said his government would bring “more investment” to businesses than they have “ever dreamt of”.

He told the CBI he was “not making any apologies” for pledging to bring some key services into public ownership, saying: “It’s not an attack on the foundations of a modern economy, it’s the very opposite. It’s the norm in many European countries.

“It’s taking the essential steps to build a genuinely mixed economy for the 21st century.”

He added: “So I understand your caution about some of our plans but your businesses, your workers, your consumers have been failed by rip-off energy bills and very poor rail and bus services in many parts of the country, and I think many of you know that because you know things can’t go on as they are.”

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson claimed she was leading the “natural party of business”. She said remaining in the EU gives the UK the best chance of success, as “any form of Brexit, whether it’s hard or soft, blue or red, will be bad for jobs, business and our public services”.

Whenever Blackfriar speaks to firms, they deliver a very clear message. They want the politicians to deliver certainty over Brexit so they can plan ahead.

They also want swift, decisive action to tackle skills shortage and our terrible transport system.

Politicians ought to get their own house in order before they start lecturing business leaders on what is best for the UK’s economy.