The hunt for the heir to the CBI’s throne has begun as industry chiefs begin casting around for Britain’s next top business lobby organisation.
It comes as the “hopefully temporary” stand-in group BizUK emerged this weekend, in a bid to help steer political parties’ approach to industry ahead of the general election.
City grandees suggested to City A.M. that it was a “moment for consolidation” and that “something will” end up replacing the embattled Confederation for British Industry (CBI).
One City source backed former Institute of Directors (IoD) director-general Simon Walker’s call for a “single” supergroup composed of the UK’s five top business lobbies.
“The controversy isn’t helpful and I’m not sure how the CBI brand recovers,” they told City A.M.
“It’s time for a reboot but it risks there being too many voices. I think it’s a moment for consolidation.”
In The Times last week, City bigwig Walker called for a merging of the CBI, the IoD, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and MakeUK into a “single, overarching body representing British business to government”.
While top strategist Bill Blain said the fact the “voice of industry and commerce [is] completely neutered at a time when it is required more than ever” is “a real crisis”.
He asked: “Who is actually advising government on what should be going on?
“If no one is telling them what the needs of business are,” he explained to this newspaper, “then we have a zero-sum game going on in terms of setting industrial policy.”
Blain added: “The government is already weak in this area – they lack any real depth on its own bench to understand this when nobody is really representing British industry and commerce to them and that is a concern.”
Exodus of members
But asked who he thought might take the lobby group’s crown, he said: “I don’t know what will replace the CBI – I’m sure something will… All of them are very different organisations.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will hold a City summit with business bosses today as he looks to challenge Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in a fresh corporate charm offensive.
The CBI has buckled under the weight of scandal in recent weeks with allegations of rape, sexual harassment and a toxic culture circling, and its demise being apparently imminent.
Reports in the Guardian that two female employees reported being raped by male CBI staff are now being investigated by the City of London Police.
All engagement with the government and the Labour Party has been paused and a wave of firms, including Aviva, John Lewis Partnership and NatWest Group, quit as members.