Downing Street has made a last-ditch attempt to salvage relations between British business and Boris Johnson by ditching plans to wrap up the PM’s council of business leaders, after his humiliating performance last week eroded bosses’ confidence.
Last week, No 10 had told some members of the PM’s business discussion forum, the Build Back Better Council, that their council would no longer be required next year, according to The Times, who first reported the news.
But the PM’s office now seems to have changed its mind, in the wake of a damaging week for Johnson’s relationship with the City, after a speech at the CBI’s annual conference in which he compared himself to Moses, spoke at length about Peppa Pig World, and lost his place for 20 seconds.
“It’s going to remain in place,” a source told The Times, adding that its membership would be rejigged, and that some members would be reappointed.
Although some of its 30-strong business leader panel, which includes BP boss Bernard Looney and Tesco boss Ken Murphy, had only been appointed last year, the PM’s office had aired plans for the council to be replaced by smaller sector-focused forums, overseen by rotating secretaries of state that would hone in on policies relating to their department, for example green energy investment.
Ditching the cross-sector panel would have wiped out any direct engagement between Johnson and business leaders across the country during a crucial time, as they grapple with rising inflation around the corner, supply chain issues and labour shortages.