Business bashing is in vogue. This week we’ve seen regulators with self-defeating plans to rein in bankers’ pay deals, protesters at the Mipim property conference attacking international investors who buy in London (a protest better aimed at our broken planning system) and a political attack on Lord Freud for using poorly-chosen words to point out that the minimum wage risks dis-incentivising employers who wish to hire the severely disabled – which is why many other countries, such as France, offer them a lower minimum rate.
The reflex to place the worst construction possible on matters to do with business, whatever the consequences, is a dangerous habit. Earlier this month at the Institute of Directors’ conference, George Osborne called on business leaders to put their heads above the parapet, telling them to “get out there and put the business argument” or risk losing support for Britain’s enterprise society.
This argument matters enormously, more than ever when our economy’s return to growth is so hard-won and more gains are still desperately needed. That is why City A.M. has always believed in standing up for the contributions of business and finance, even as it calls out those who fail to play by the rules.
This weekend, I will be speaking on a panel at the Barbican, debating business bashing and corporate social responsibility as part of the Battle of Ideas festival. This is just one session in a larger strand on Austerity Dilemmas for which City A.M. is proud to be the media partners. Only by debating these difficult topics in public can we hope for a healthier discourse on business in Britain today.