The last week in the election campaign has felt like half time at the Cup Final.
It's almost as if the parties have thought we'll get all the manifestos out have a bit of a breather then come out fighting for the second half. The tragic events in the Mediterranean and most recently in Nepal have also, unfortunately, added to this feeling as they have, quite rightly, knocked the election off the top news slots. I'm pretty sure though that with less than a fortnight to go to the election "normal" service will be resumed.
This last week at the Chamber we swung our focus firmly onto the GM devolution issue and held the first of our events with Sir Richard Leese. A full summary can be found here and more can be found in May's 53 Degrees magazine. It was a great event and we had some excellent feedback from attendees both on the content but also the style whereby we gave Sir Richard and the businesses that were there enough time to get stuck in to what is developing into not just a local or regional issue but one that will be at the centre of the next government's agenda. As Sir Richard put it - government needs devolution to succeed. The big question at present is what will that government look like?
To help answer that we have now released our overview of the various manifestos and what the parties have said about their plans for business. You can access this on our new Election 2015 page. There's some good stuff in there but how much survives post election is anyone's guess which is why we will be working in the immediate aftermath to keep track of what is happening and what the impact will be. I can guarantee that whoever is in Number 10 we will continue to make sure that your views continue to be represented and we will work with government to get the best deal for business.
If the current poll forecasts and predictions turn out to be accurate that may take some time though. Maybe we about to go to extra time and penalties?
I've taken a few days leave this week and thought I'd shun the normal holiday reads and take the chance to have a more detailed look at the various manifestos from the main parties. A bit sad, I know.
After wading through over 300 pages of promises, pledges, graphs, photos of smiling happy people and politicians on building sites I think I need another holiday!
Over the next few weeks we'll be publishing our overview of how these relate to what the contents of our Campaign for Business 2015 are. On first read through there are a huge number of similarities to what the politicians are promising to what you told us should be in the Campaign document. There are differences obviously between the parties and still a lot of built in wriggle-room for after the election. For example I'm still none the wiser whether Labour intend to scrap all zero-hours contracts or as their manifesto words it ban "exploitative zero hours contracts". How do you define exploitative or is the assumption they all are? The Conservatives promise a business rates review. I'm always wary about reviews - from early work we have done on this it may just be too complex a subject and maybe Labour have a more direct answer in just cutting them?
Manifestos serve a purpose - they set out stances, positions and policies on which an election is fought. However reading these this last week, at the back of my mind all the time was the question of how much would survive any post-election negotiations should they be needed to form another coalition government?
It certainly promises to be an interesting month ahead.
So, what do you think of it so far? With a distinct lack of cohesion and what appears to be “off the cuff” announcements I’m a little underwhelmed and concerned with what I’ve seen of the election campaigns so far.
From a business perspective I’m more convinced than ever that our political leaders just don’t get it. Last week after the 7 way Leaders “Debate” I tweeted a question around whether business owners felt short changed by what they had just witnessed.
For nearly two hours the 7 leaders struggled to answer the 4 questions posed from the audience. The bog standard issues cropped up again and again, many irrelevant to the actual question, with the protagonists seemingly more intent on delivering the best soundbite. Some people have blamed the format – I think the format was right. It was the content that was poor. I think the business community was, once again, completely sidelined and taken for granted.
Things don’t seem to have changed much this week either.
My job at the Chamber means that I work to and promote a pro-business agenda, irrespective of party politics. That’s finding out from businesses what they need to grow, develop, increase profitability, employ more people and, yes, play a responsible role in the community (including paying taxes that are due). Lets just think about this for a minute. The people who set up and run businesses in this country are the wealth creators and the job makers. Without them and their employees how would money be raised to pay for the NHS, Trident subs and everything else that forms the ammunition in each party’s election campaign armoury?
Rightly, when issues around the National Health Service get raised, especially at election time, feelings run high across the political spectrum. Depending on your opinion it’s something that should be protected or modernized or both – but it’s an issue that gets people active and prompts a response.
I think it’s time we had the same response when business issues get raised – or more accurately get ignored. The people that own, run and work in business are the UK’s National Wealth Service – put simply they fund government. We shouldn’t forget that and neither should the politicians. Our collective task is to make sure they don’t.
If you want to get involved and have your say as part of the Chamber’s election activity post a comment below or visit the Election 2015 page to find out more information.
As the first week of campaigning comes to an end and the media builds itself into a frenzy about the 7 way Leader’s Debate, now’s probably as good a time as any to give the first of what will become a regular update and overview of election activity from a business perspective.
So far the most overused word has to be “better”. We’ve had Labour’s “A Better Plan for Business”; “A Better Plan for Britains prosperity” and “ A Better Plan. A Better Future”. The Conservatives have weighed in with “On the road for a better future” and “A Better Future for Your family and Britain” plastered on their election bus. So irrespective of who wins it seems that things can only get better….wait a minute haven’t we heard that somewhere before?
Policy wise Labour released their business manifesto and also walked into a firestorm with their full page FT advert around business views on the EU. As regards the manifesto a lot of it certainly made the right noises and nodded in the direction of much of our Campaign for Business. Though light on details the direction of devolution looks set to continue under a Labour government. Proposals around cutting business rates are certainly welcome and backing up the work that we have been doing the last 2 years they have called for employers to have more control over apprenticeship funding. Interestingly what it doesn’t mention is any policy relating to Zero Hour Contracts. Obviously these changes wouldn’t impact on business.
Of course how much may survive any future coalition deals remains to be seen but it seems a good start irrespective of the media nonsense about which business leaders can write a better letter (there’s that word again).
The Conservatives hit back (sort of) with the now infamous 100 signature letter that many people now take as the gospel according to the business community. We know better of course and have a much more realistic overview of what a large city region business community expect form government. Whilst some relevant points were made I do hope that the Conservative business manifesto is made of something a bit more substantial.
As I write this there’s another 35 days to go. I’m busy planning the Chamber’s activity around this and also the devolution issue which to me at least probably has more resonance than anything so far at a national level. Keep watching for news about some important events happening soon and how you can get involved with developing a genuine plan for better business.
More next week.