It’s time for entrepreneurs to make their numbers heard – for the benefit of the wider British economy

 
Philip Salter
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IN HOLLYWOOD action movies, the hero often battles a room full of villains, defeating them one at a time before rescuing the girl. However, the world isn’t a movie – on planet Earth, when it comes to getting your way, numbers matter.

That’s why, in the 1970s, Britain was brought to a halt when the unions decided to hold the country to ransom. Now, while unions remain a powerful force, the country has thankfully moved on from striking gravediggers. Globalisation, privatisations and shifts in cultural attitudes have seen union membership plummet, and an increasing number of people want to go it alone and work for themselves.

Yet despite popular myths to the contrary, capitalism hasn’t been allowed to let rip – when unions declined, big business filled the power vacuum at the heart of government. Ever since, corporatism – that unholy alliance between big government and big business – has reigned supreme.

The interests of big businesses are not always aligned with a system that promotes economic growth. Success for many big companies’ business models entails keeping the world as much like today as possible – they want stability, part of which involves keeping upstart startups in their place with regulations only large corporations can cope with because of their scale.

Entrepreneurs are often too busy and lack the resources to defend themselves in public policy debates on tax and regulation, so their interests are ignored. This is why corporatism has flourished, and why there has been a gap in the market for a new type of union – one that would work for the good of the whole nation, rather than just the narrow interests of its members.

Last month, the editor of this paper called for someone to create “an entrepreneurs’ union”; a request that hasn’t gone unheeded. On the back of this call to arms, Emma Jones, the founder of Enterprise Nation, convened a group of organisations that collectively represent more than 2.5m entrepreneurs. It includes such heavy hitters as the Federation of Small Businesses, the Forum of Private Business and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). Out of this meeting, the Entrepreneurs’ Alliance was formed.

My think tank, The Entrepreneurs Network, was the newest organisation around the table. Set up in partnership with Octopus Investments and supported by the Adam Smith Institute, we are a think tank designed to bring entrepreneurs to the forefront of political discourse and help make Britain the best place in the world to start a business. As with all the members of the Entrepreneurs’ Alliance, we plan to speak with one voice whenever possible.

The Entrepreneurs’ Alliance isn’t yet the “slick, professional pressure group relentlessly fighting for wealth creators and promoting mass entrepreneurship” that has been called for, but it is the germ of such an organisation. The will exists across the member organisations to punch above our individual weights when the situation demands it. And where there is a will (and a loud enough voice), there is a way.

Philip Salter is director of The Entrepreneurs Network. The founding organisations of the Entrepreneurs’ Alliance are Enterprise Nation, The Entrepreneurs Network, British Library Business & IP Centre, ICAEW, School for StartUps, Forum of Private Business, National Enterprise Network, Centre for Entrepreneurs, BusinessZone.co.uk, UKBusinessForums.co.uk and the Federation of Small Businesses.

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