UK plc is off the election agenda

With election guns blazing this week, a rare consensus seems to have been reached on one issue – that the ‘real’ election issues are being ignored. On the one hand, prime minister Tony Blair is disparaging the media for focusing on ‘personalities and incidents’.

And on the other, the business world is complaining that politicians are skirting the most important issues.

Findings in last week’s Accountancy Age/Reed Accountancy Personnel Big Question revealed that 61% of over 400 finance directors polled thought the main political parties were paying less than sufficient attention to the needs of UK plc in the election campaign.

Business continues to complain
Despite the fact that Labour has enjoyed a record number of defections to the Labour party, including business leaders, it continues to face complaints from the business world that its needs are being ignored.

A snapshot of results from Big Question surveys over the past six months indicate continued dissatisfaction at the way business has been treated since Labour came to power in 1997. One published in Accountancy Age this month showed that more than one in ten FDs intend to abstain in next month’s general elections – an alarming figure considering these are the people that will lead UK plc in the 21st century.

And of those that plan to vote, the majority expressed disillusionment with party politics.

Disillusionment with all political parties
One FD said: ‘Labour has gone too far right, and there is no credible alternative.’ Another added: ‘I wouldn’t know which one to choose, they are all as bad as each other.’

Politicians may fear that overemphasis on the needs of business could risk alienating voters. But the Confederation of British Industry, which this week published its apolitical manifesto, disagrees.

UK plc’s discontentment is echoed in the pronouncements of Digby Jones, CBI director-general, who this week called for a review of the regulators’ powers of the former nationalised industries because he claims they are stifling the competitiveness of the UK.

The burden of red tape has been an ongoing complaint throughout the Labour Party’s tenure.

Those business figures that support the Conservative Party argue there is now an excessive amount of red tape, while the Labour Party counters this with its arguments for protecting the consumer.

The needs of business and voters are linked
This week, however, Jones said the needs of business and of individual voters were inextricably tied.

In the foreword to the CBI’s manifesto Jones says: ‘It’s entirely appropriate that the business community should set out what it thinks government should do’, because ‘it is business that creates the majority of jobs and wealth’. He calls it ‘socially inclusive wealth creation’.

However, the economy has been one of the most stable under any Labour government. Support for chancellor Gordon Brown continues to grow.

Of over 300 finance directors polled by Accountancy Age in March, just a week after the Budget, 65% said they would like Brown to remain in office if Labour wins the next general election.

‘He has created stability,’ said one finance director, ‘the economy is stable and unemployment is at its lowest levels’.

Another FD said: ‘He provides Labour with a much-needed gravitas on things financial and is a stable influence within the government.’


Election 2001

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