The Business of Politics

As a DIB poll finds that most business leaders feel abandoned by the political parties, Frank McKenna asks if Andy Street’s suggestion, that more entrepreneurs should go into politics, is the answer?

Frank McKenna

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In a recent poll Downtown in Business asked which political party was most business friendly.

The poll closes later today, but as I write Conservatives are on 38%, Labour 13% and Neither 49%.

That reflects most of the conversations I have with business owners and entrepreneurs nowadays, who were left shaking their heads at the naivety of a Labour Party conference that thought introducing a minimum wage of £15 per hour was a good idea following the greatest modern economic crisis the country had faced, through to the Prime Minister at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, blaming them for the shortage of fuel, food, and staff that we are currently suffering from.

Now, politicians may simply be playing the law of averages here, believing that they will lose few votes by slagging off businesses and wealth creators. Or it might just be that they actually just don’t get business.

The excellent Mayor for the West Midlands, Andy Street, who spoke at a Downtown lunchtime event in Birmingham yesterday, has offered the view that more businesspeople should be encouraged to enter the political fray.

Street himself was the chief executive of John Lewis before going over to the dark side. He suggests that his understanding of the world of commerce has helped him in his role as regional mayor.

Certainly, the apparent lack of understanding of business across the political spectrum would appear to indicate that if business is to get a fairer hearing, and more appreciation of what it does, then more Andy Street’s would be a good thing.

The challenge will be convincing entrepreneurs to give up on their business to pursue a career in a profession which is even less appreciated than they currently are – and often for less financial reward.

As someone who went in the opposite direction, from politics to business, I understand that Street’s call is not an easy sell. But I for one wouldn’t rule out a return to frontline politics in the future – particularly if it may be the only way to get politics to better understand why business is so important to what they all do, Labour, Conservative, Green, or the Raving Loony Party.

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