As Ed Miliband hits back at the boss of Boots, should business leaders stay out of politics?

Ed Miliband has hit back at Stefano Pessina (Source: Getty)

Alex Singleton, associate director of The Whitehouse Consultancy, says Yes

Throwing stones at political parties and their leaders is a dangerous strategy for business. We all have views on which politicians are better for business, and executives might think they are doing the right thing by speaking out. But expressing these views publicly just damages their shareholders’ interests. That’s because good companies have to engage with policy-makers across the political spectrum.

Aligning any large business with one party simply harms its relationship with a possible future government. Moreover, listed companies rely on the support of shareholders, employees and customers, who vote for a variety of parties. When those firms allow themselves to be seen as party political, they annoy their stakeholders unnecessarily.

In the old days, that might have been most visible in the form of retaliatory criticism from politicians. These days, a torrent of attacks on social media from the public could cause significant reputational damage.

Charlie Mullins, founder and chief executive of Pimlico Plumbers, says No

To argue that business owners should keep their noses out of politics is as logically sound as preventing barristers from becoming judges. Outlawing business people from political debate would be disastrous, since the skills required to run a successful company are also invaluable in managing an economy.

Every five years, politicians ask to be put in charge of the UK, the fifth biggest economy on the planet. But most of them have no financial experience past managing their student loans, let alone a $3 trillion concern. To ban factory owners, insurance company executives and shopkeepers from politics is to disqualify the most expert people available from adding their expertise towards governing the nation.

And to those who doubt their credentials, perhaps consider where the pennies that enter the Treasury come from? It’s the tax from the profits of successful businesses that pays for the UK’s health service, education and military.

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