Lost amongst the ifs and buts of whether the CBI could survive the phalanx of governance failings it stood accused of was the question of whether it, or the other business groups, were doing their job in the first place, or what they were for.
A corporate human shield for business leaders that didn’t want to put their heads above the parapet? A lobby ground for the wider business community, or a special interest operation for its members? The same questions could easily be thrown in the direction of the other acronym-heavy groups who dominate the airwaves, from the FSB to the IoD.
Well, they’ll need to figure out their purpose quick. There’s a new player in town: The Jobs Foundation, launched over the weekend. it has – perhaps appropriately for a group that will argue for the animal spirits of capitalism to be let loose – spotted a gap in the market: a campaign organisation not beholden to the strata of the business community from which it draws its members, but as a wider voice banging home the message loudly and repeatedly that the only way Britain will create the jobs and growth it needs is to encourage the creation and scaling of businesses.
The Jobs Foundation has some impressive names behind it. Matthew Elliott has been the architect of a series of successful SW1 campaigns; Georgiana Bristol and Patrick Spencer, too, are serious people. The Jobs Foundation will provide a welcome electric shock to our national debate, not ‘speaking for business’ but having the argument about the very purpose of enterprise.
It will, at times, be an uphill battle. Polling suggests that the majority of Brits derive their views of the business community from our foremost entrepreneurs (think Karren Brady and Alan Sugar) and from their interactions with our biggest firms in rail, energy and water, few of which are right now covering themselves in glory.
But it’s a welcome struggle, and one worth welcoming. If we’ve learnt one thing from Elliott’s campaigns over the year, the group will rarely be afraid of putting noses out of joint if it helps their own, worthy, argument.