FDs back embattled Blair

Link: Businesses attack Blair over taxes and red tape

Despite growing concerns over Labour party policy and his handling of the Iraq crisis, this week’s exclusive Accountancy Age/Reed Accountancy Big Question revealed that financial directors see Blair as the best choice for prime minister.

He received 30% of the votes, while colleague Gordon Brown and Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy came joint second with 20% each. Conservative figurehead Iain Duncan Smith trailed behind with 11%, while 19% of those asked felt that none of the options was appropriate.

Ruth Lea, head of the policy unit at the Institute of Directors, said the results of the poll were unexpected. ‘While many polls still put Tony Blair out on top, this is slightly more surprising as FDs are considered more right of centre than most,’ she said.

‘Under Blair, Labour’s policies and handling of the economy have not been brilliant, but they have also not been disastrous. This seems like a case of better the devil you know.’

Lea warned that the opposition parties would have to raise their game.

Many of the more than 200 respondents to the survey reflected this opinion – not entirely pleased with Blair’s leadership, but unhappy with the alternatives.

‘Although he has lost much credibility over the last six years, he is still the best option,’ said Peter Smith of Lloyd Instruments. ‘It’s more a matter of the best of a bad bunch I’m afraid,’ agreed Kevin Tomlinson of Signam.

Blair’s chancellor Gordon Brown also did well, grabbing joint-second place. Brown’s passionate speech to the Labour conference on Monday was seen by many as the first stages of a play for party leadership, and his position in the poll shows there is support for such a move. FDs, it seems, have appreciated his handling of the economy so far. ‘He has a sound financial grasp,’ one said. ‘Nothing else matters.’

‘As a man of integrity, one can trust him more,’ said another. ‘Brown may improve the relationship between the politicians and the electorate.’

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy shared second place with Brown.

The strengthening position of the Lib Dems will have been noted by Labour, and attracting business support has been key in Liberal Democrat attempts to be seen as the main opposition party.

‘Charles Kennedy understands the importance of having a dialogue with business leaders and we have found an increasingly positive reception for our message within the business community in recent years,’ said a Liberal Democrat spokesman.

‘Give the Lib Dems a chance to tackle the issues that require attention, such as health, education, transport and crime,’ said one FD.

The poor performance of Iain Duncan Smith, with only 11% of the vote, will be a blow. ‘I would have preferred William Hague,’ admitted Ian Fleming of British Electrical Lamps.

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