Prime Minister Theresa May tells SMEs she’ll play nice after all

theresa may

It seems operation “buy off business” is underway reports The Independent.

Just days after the Ministry of Justice unveiled plans to sacrifice car accident victims on the altar of keeping the insurance industry sweet, Theresa May used her speech at the CBI to offer various sops to other industries amid deep concern about her Government’s drift towards a “hard” Brexit.

In addition to more tax cuts, and tax breaks, there’s the promise of an annual £2bn investment into research and development by 2020, together with the the launch of an industrial strategy aimed at “spreading economic growth across the UK”. Hooray!

A “small business research initiative”, we are told, will look at how more innovators can get their first break. It probably won’t amount to very much. These things rarely do. But the point was to throw a bone to the small business lobby, so job done.

Oh, and there’s a consultation on plans to reform corporate governance and bosses pay. I’d be willing to put my house on that putting an end to at least some of Ms May’s earlier radicalism on the subject.

The PM has already started backsliding on the issue of appointing workers to company boards. Businesses now won’t be forced to do that. Instead we have some woolly talk about “other ways” of improving representation such as, for example, employee “panels”. Which company boards will, of course, cheerfully ignore.

So, would you pipe down at the back please?

Yes! said a business lobby that had been getting increasingly unhappy – and vocal – about the crisis facing Britain’s economy as a result of Brexit, not to mention the cack handed way ministers have been approaching it.

Here’s CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn: “The Prime Minister has laid out an ambitious and inclusive vision for the economy, placing the UK front and centre of the world stage for innovation. Alongside her backing for free, fair and open markets this will be a powerful catalyst for investment. “Businesses around the UK will strongly welcome a progressive partnership between industry and government, who together can build a modern industrial strategy tailored to the UK’s great strengths.”

Now, you might expect Ms Fairbairn to say something nice given the PM was speaking at her annual conference.

So here’s Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce: “I think businesses will be reassured by the tone of the Prime Minister’s remarks, which was substantially different to what we heard at the Conservative Party Conference less than two months ago. At a time when the UK is embarking on a major political and economic transition, businesses of all sizes need to feel that they are being championed, both in government and by government.”

It wouldn’t be all that surprising to see that one pinned up to the wall of the Number 10 press office.

As for all those concerns about the rights of European workers, and the ability of UK based firms to trade with Europe in two years time? The worries about Britain’s trade relationships, and the increasing feeling that Brexit is spinning out of control? Well, they’re in abeyance. At least for now.

“Look guys, we won’t have to put up with spotty oiks from the shop floor in the executive dining room, so how about we dial back on the criticism a bit? We’re going to have to put up with this disaster of a Brexit, but at least it looks like we won’t have to put up with a lot of the other nasties the PM was threatening, and we’ve got a few sweeties too. So best we play nice for a bit. At this rate we won’t even have to move much on bonuses.”

And business leaders wonder why people are so cynical about them and their motivatiions.