The London Mayor has weighed in on a row between Alliance Boots chairman Stefano Pessina and the Labour party, backing the business boss's decision to air his political views in public.
Boris Johnson called Pessina’s outspoken comments “refreshing” after the businessman attacked Labour’s business policies as a “catastrophe”.
“I think the head of Boots is perfectly entitled to his view. And I think actually, too often, you have a lot of nervousness in corporations about speaking out on political issues," said Johnson, appearing on LBC radio.
“Capitalists will typically be weary of any kind of uncertainty, they won’t want to offend any politicians because they may actually get in and start persecuting them. So I think it’s quite refreshing to see some tycoon actually saying what he thinks.”
However, the London Mayor and Tory candidate for Uxbridge criticised the decision of Boots to move its headquarters from Nottingham where the firm was founded, to Switzerland, calling teh move “disappointing”.
“He’s doing his best by the lights of his shareholders and by the interests of the company… these guys I'm afraid have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to minimise their obligations and he is… In business terms it’s what he’s got to do. I have to say I find it a little disappointing that he doesn't cough up for Britain. That's my view and I've made my view plain in many other cases,” said Jhonson.
The Mayor made efforts to distance himself from agreeing with Labour leader Ed Miliband who hit out at Pessina, saying British voters would not be “told how to vote by someone who avoids paying his taxes".
“I don’t agree. That’s two completely different things. I think he’s entirely right in his [Pessina’s] view that the Labour government would be an economic catastrophe. It’s a perfectly correct thing to say, but I think it’s a good thing if companies that earn great sums in Britain should pay their taxes in Britain and that’s something I’ve said before, in the case of many many other companies. But he’s perfectly right to say they [Labour] are not interested in creating the cash for this society.”
Alliance Boots, which recently merged with US chemist Walgreens, has distanced itself from Pessina’s comments, saying they had been taken out of context and were personal views only.
A host of business leaders have come out in defence of Pessina airing his political views and condemned Labour's response as "unattractive", "stifling debate" and "anti-business".
Watch Boris talk about the Boots row below.