Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, roll up, roll up to the greatest political show on earth. That may be slightly overselling it, but it is heartening to see the economy and business once again at the heart of our political debate.
Today will see the first of what we imagine will be pretty dramatic financial statements from a Chancellor who on the face of it appears to be more Lawson than Hammond, whilst in these pages Labour’s shadow business secretary effectively announces a widespread plan to boost business investment through tax allowances. It’s hardly Reaganomics but as a start, it’s not bad.
Labour’s newfound appreciation for the world of business is welcome indeed.
The Tories remain complacent about their relationship with the world of commerce: it doesn’t take too long when chatting over lunch with even the most true blue of City grandees for conversation to turn to sluggish economic growth and the myriad difficulties of doing business in a country which has quietly turned into a French tribute act on tax and whose approach to planning and bureaucracy now seems about as navigable as calling a customer service line. Combine that with a general belief that nobody in SW1 is listening to their complaints and you get fertile ground for Labour to exploit, now that the party has moved on from its Corbyn-era flirtation with communism red in tooth and claw.
The Tories will make a start today with a reversal of tax hikes and work on investment zones, but it will take more than that for the business community to be completely convinced – especially if the Bank of England and the Treasury continue to pull in slightly different directions. There is a battle to be fought for the hearts and minds of business – the good news is that usually creates more good ideas than bad. As ever, though, the winner will be the party that promises simply to let business get on with the day job, and rewards not punishes them for taking chances on investment.