Why business is going to war with the Conservatives


It is surprising, and not always pleasurably so, to find yourself damn right in one of your predictions. Perhaps there is something a little contrarian about that – I predicted it, after all, so it should not come as a surprise.

Even so, when the London Evening Standard led with the headline ‘Business goes to war with Tories’ (changed in the second edition), I did have a shiver of déjà vu because this was more or less the outcome that Joe Zammit-Lucia and I predicted in our 2015 pamphlet A Radical Politics for Business.

There do have to be one or two health warnings before I claim complete victory. The Evening Standard is now edited by George Osborne, a man who has in a sense gone to war with the Tories too – at least in their current shape under Theresa May.

Even so, Joe and I wrote about the way that business was no longer naturally either conservative or Conservative. They are increasingly internationalist, fed up with the sclerosis in government, keen to organise a more creative and skill-based education system, long-term thinkers, frustrated by the pressures in the opposite direction from the financial industry.

All of these are fundamental liberal beliefs. Possibly even Liberal ones.

So why, in those circumstances, are they not at the moment falling into line behind the Lib Dems?

I have been wondering that myself because someone took the trouble to email me (thanks, Ryan!) to ask.

My gut feeling is that business is waiting for a politician – almost any politician – able to see both sides in the Brexit debate clearly enough to articulate a new, unifying direction for the nation to take.

I hope the Lib Dems can do so. I even wrote up the idea in the Guardian the week after the referendum.

I sense an exhaustion with the fundamentalists on both sides – and a growing realisation that none of the three likely outcomes are at all attractive (crashing out, locking ourselves into a rules system where we have no say, or begging for readmittance on any terms – or any more referenda either).

My guess – and that is all it is – is that business awaits leadership. It is a pity there is so little of it around.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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