First published in Clarity: April 1 2015
There really are no surprises in politics anymore. “Machine politics” is now a literal description. Five years to the day since they last published “An Exclusive Letter to the Telegraph” signed by 23 business leaders, the Daily Telegraph are back with another. Last time round it was in support of the Conservative Party policy to scrap National Insurance increases. This time round, it is in support of George Osborne’s flagship policy of “progressively lowering Corporation Tax to 20%.” And this time round, they’ve reached the magic 100 number on day one!
George Osborne had the gall to state that the letter was an “unprecedented intervention in a British general election.” What is he talking about? It’s not even as if the letter doesn’t contain plenty of old faces. Twenty two of the eventual signatories of the 2010 letter appear on the 2015 letter. They are Zameer Choudhery, Paul Walsh, Lord Stuart Rose, Alan Parker, Stephen Murphy, Ben Gordon, Aiden Heavey, Neil Clifford, Lord Bamford, Brent Hoberman, Surinder Arora, Robert Bensoussan, Ralph Findlay, Andy Harrison, Luke Johnson, Mike Norris, Tony Pidgley, Nick Robertson, Michael Turner, Nick Wheeler, Moni Varma and Nadir Lalani. That’s just off a quarter. These men, and they are all men, are the true believers.
Try harder George.
Firstly, the letter shows that business leaders who benefit from Conservative policies tend to sign letters advocating policy positions that benefit business leaders. And Secondly, it shows that the Conservatives believe that this kind of letter speaks beyond their core vote. That is open to debate. Do swing voters buy into the idea that business leaders act in the best interests of the country, and not themselves? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, expect more business leaders to sign this letter.
What more can be said? Well Nils Pratley had a good go in the Guardian. If the Conservatives have delivered sound economic management over the past five years, why had productivity fallen? Output per hour worked is lower than in 2007. Living standards have flat-lined. The number of zero hour contracts has increased exponentially. The construction sector is still in an almighty struggle. And above all, business investment has stalled. “If coalition-run Britain was such a fertile place for investment,” Pratley writes, “why didn’t the corporate pounds flow and why is the UK’s current account deficit at a record 5.5%?”