Sunday, 26 February 2012

Cameron’s Tories are more ‘anti-business’ than anyone on the left.

This week David Cameron took to the bully pulpit provided by the Business in the Community conference to attack the ‘snobbery’ and ‘dangerous rhetoric’ of people who say that business is inherently self interested and cannot be trusted.

He told delegates that over ‘recent months we’ve heard some dangerous rhetoric creep into our national debate that wealth is somehow anti-social and that people in business are out for themselves.’ The country had, he said, got to ‘fight this mood with all we’ve got’ because such thinking is ‘wrong for our economy’ and we ‘need the jobs and investment business brings.’

Anyway even if we were still a little worried about the ethics of some parts of the business community Citizen Dave reminded us that business isn’t all about making money, perish the thought, business people can be philanthropists too; blimey who’d have thought it eh; in fact in the right hands business can be ‘the most powerful force for good the world has ever known.’

He went on to proclaim himself to be ‘sick’ of the ‘snobbery that says business has no inherent moral worth like the state does.’ Cue a thunderous round of applause, a shot of the Union Flag fluttering in the breeze and a burst of patriotic music before our ever busy PM bustled off to host yet another ‘summit’ at Downing Street.

Criticising the speech Labour shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna said Mr Cameron’s message was ‘confused and inconsistent’ and that despite loud protestations to the contrary he had made a ‘truce’ with the vested interests that give good business a bad name when he allowed state owned RBS to hand out huge bonuses to ‘loss making investment bankers.’

The Prime Minister was, Mr Umunna said, now ‘seeking to smear those who argue for a more responsible capitalism by claiming they are anti wealth creation and guilty of snobbery.’

You don’t have to be an unreconstructed Trot to feel that just now the business community isn’t exactly covering itself with glory. Banks are doling out huge bonuses to failed senior employees, energy companies are guilty of using a ‘smoke and mirrors’ approach to billing to confuse their customers and several major companies are fighting shy of paying their fair share of tax, often with the active collusion of the authorities through ‘sweetheart deals’ cooked up by HMRC.

David Cameron wants the story of his government to be one where everything comes down to a simplistic fight between the pro-business Tories in the blue corner and the anti-business lefties in the red ones; as ever things aren’t quite how they seem. Despite all the noise they make on the subject the Tories are less of a friend to business than they’d like you to think they are.

For all their talk about getting tough with the banks over lending to small businesses the government are incapable of turning words into actions. As a result small businesses continue to be starved of credit whilst the bonus fuelled gravy train trundles on regardless.

Then there is the small matter of the extent to which they are in thrall to the credit rating agencies, Moody’s or Standard and Poor’s only have to frown in the general direction of 11 Downing Street and George Osborne start hacking frenziedly at public services. The result of this, of course, isn’t financial stability it is a collapse of business and consumer confidence and a further contraction of the economy.

Apart from on the loonier elements of its fringe the left is not and never has been anti-business. People on the left are pragmatic enough to know that soaking the rich seldom works because the rich can afford clever accountants. What they and a lot of people who don’t identify themselves as being on the left too want to see is responsible behaviour being encouraged.

The government have so far failed to do so; instead they have put placating the credit rating agencies and appeasing the financial sector ahead of every other concern. That isn’t being pro-business; it is a cynical ploy to placate their lucrative sponsorship from the city and to shore up their ideological assault on the state.

Not the best of British.

The only thing sporting history will recall if it can be bothered to do so, about Derek Chisora and David Haye is their undignified brawl at a press conference in Munich.

Chisora is the sort of journeyman who exists solely to give more accomplished fighters someone to hit and Haye will be best remembered as the only world champion to surrender his belt because he had a poorly toe.

Their antics are the ugly endpoint of the sad road boxing started down when fighters began being encouraged to engage in ‘trash talk’ to help build publicity for usually mediocre fights. If boxing wants to keep what’s left of its audience then it must clean up its act; putting a lid on the trash talk would be a good start.

Carson was a cracker.

Much loved comic Frank Carson died this week. As a comedian he was about as far as possible from being ‘edgy’, perhaps that is why he was so well loved.

Unlike more modern comics Carson used humour to bring people together rather than to drive them apart. He was also a tireless worker for charity for which he was awarded a papal knighthood.

The secret of his success and the source of the admiration expressed by many who knew him only though his television work was that he saw the job of a comic as having to do that most important of things; cheer us all up.

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