Entrepreneur gathering gives views on 2010

LAST Thursday, 260 delegates braved the cold to come and hear leading entrepreneurs, politicians and think-tank leaders share their views at the 6th Entrepreneur Country Forum, which had the theme “Politics Not as Usual”.

Stephan Shakespeare, co-founder of YouGov, was candid when he said that tough times were the making of his firm – “when things got bad, we got better”.

He spoke of a “Post-Bureaucratic Age”, and said that transparency reduced government waste. Windsor council started publishing the amount of electricity it used online, an act that saw its usage decline. He also said that, following the election, SMEs would win a flood of government contracts. Rejoice!

Derek Wyatt, Labour MP for Sittingbourne & Sheppey, reminded us that the UK has been a debtor nation since 1945, and now has a budget deficit of £178bn. He has offered to chair an Entrepreneur Country lobby group to work with the Treasury on tax and entrepreneurship. The first meeting will be between 2.30pm and 5pm on 9 February at the House of Commons. Contact if you are interested.

Hugh Chappell, a successful entrepreneur that has built and sold two businesses since the turn of the century, creating jobs and wealth for those involved, used his keynote to express anger that government is not held to the same standards as business is.

And Matthew Elliott of the TaxPayers’ Alliance reminded us again that government money is “our money”.

Roger Camrass, general manager of Wipro Consulting Services in Europe, told the conference that the Department of Work and Pensions operates at around 25 per cent of the productivity of the private sector and could save some £5bn per annum in operating costs.

Alastair Lukies, chief executive of Monitise, shared insight from his earlier start-up, epolitix, which took Westminster online a decade ago.

Sir Paul Judge wrapped up the day by provoking the audience and calling a buyout of UK Plc. The Alliance for Democracy which he represents will be launching on the 10th of February.

What always jolts me when I spend time with executives running established firms is that they assume that they control the pace at which change will affect their industry and firm. They know that “change is out there”, but they believe that they alone can determine the pace of change.

Watching the political class dance around the upcoming election in the news over the past week gave me that same feeling. They know that change is coming, but think they will dictate how it affects them.

But change is in the air. Huge numbers of MPs are stepping down at the next election. The average citizen’s expectations about government are rising. A re-engaged electorate is ready to rebuild the UK.

Julie Meyer is chief executive of Ariadne Capital.