Boy the business press must love this government. Hardly a day goes by without another fatuous pronouncement by some Minister or other, if not the top man himself.
In the last fortnight, we’ve had to particularly egregious pronouncements (I use the word deliberately, since Cameron inserted it into one of his responses, no doubt thinking it would endear himself to the common oik – not).
First up comes Vince Cable, denying that the ability to hire and fire at will would be a ‘good thing’ for small businesses. Either he’s peddling a coalition line that he doesn’t believe in (unlikely in my view, given his track record) or he really hasn’t thought it through.
Next up comes the PM himself, berating Jimmy Carr for not paying the maximum tax required – a knee-jerk response which we’re getting all too used to, and which may well come back to haunt him.
Yes, I know it’s easy to have a pop at politicians – particularly when it comes to running small businesses, a subject which has eluded virtually all of them and which they are therefore all spectacularly ignorant of – and apparently proud of the fact.
What grates most, for me, is that despite all the evidence of past foolishness, if you stick a camera and a microphone in their face, they can’t resist making some half-assed prognostication on more or less any subject, without any in-depth consideration of the implications of their pronouncements.
And so it was with Vince and Dave.
For the small business community, Vince’s pronouncement was the most egregious (there, that word again: now you’ll have to look it up).
Because he’s had a proper job in industry, you kind of think he must therefore know what’s going on. But of course, he’s only worked in a big corporate, and there’s the rub.
When it comes to government policy on business, it is always informed by the attitudes of the major corporates (and the Mister Bigs who run them), whose lobbyists are all over Westminster like a rash, or the Unions, who are generally only interested in emplyment issues in major employer organisations.
According to online data, SMEs account for 99.9% of all UK employment (that’s up to 250 employees, by the way, so not that small by most people’s thinking), but their voice is just not heard when it comes to policy formulation.
We get weasel words about cutting red tape (as if), and then they hand over implementation to Sir Humphrey and his crew, whose very existence is defined by the amount of new regulation they can impose from their ivory towers.
My understanding is that in Germany, any business with fewer than ten employees is free of much employment legislation and can therefore invest in labour, relatively unfettered by the bureaucracy and cost that stifles our business model. Is it a coincidence, I wonder, that the German economy is propping up the rest of Europe?
If you want small businesses to start, grow and prosper, you have to do three things: deregulate, simplify, cut costs.
Cameron’s gaffe was on the one hand laughable, and on the other, the finest piece of hypocrisy seen for many a long day – which isquite something in political circles. Number one: yes, I’m sure we’d all like rich people to pay their fair whack in taxes, the way the vast majority of the working population have to (though they’d all slide out of as much as possible, like a shot, given half a chance), but who’s responsible for the tax system that allows them to create and slip through such loop-holes? Oh yes, David, that’s you.
Number two: picking on a high-profile comedian who has enriched himself, in part at least, by taking pot-shots at the financial establishment, might have seemed a cheap and easy shot, but the subsidiary questions it generates takes any pretence of cleverness right out of the equation. Like, for example, how many donors to and members of the Tory party enjoy similar tax dodges. Not to mention the MP’s and Lords themselves, whose record on false accounting and tax evasion is particularly lamentable.
It just adds brick upon brick to the wall of evidence that our government (or whatever political persuasion) hasn’t got a clue about running a business – big or small – and wouldn’t recognise a successful growth initiative if it came and bit them in the head.
If you want to know what it’s really like, starting up, running and finally selling a small business, have a look here: www.theunprincipled.com
“The Unprincipled” is already listed on Amazon and Kindle (and now Smashwords), or can be bought direct through my site or your local bookshop, which needs all the support it can get. (That’s enough self promotion – Ed)
David Croydon: 01844 238692 or e-mail email@example.com