Philosophers, historians and esteemed thinkers have pondered for centuries on what came first: the chicken or the egg. It had to be one or the other, right? Or maybe a being so magnificently supreme just created the chicken, which then lay the egg. And this made me think about what came first at a time when we are undergoing acute stress in the world of business. Who was created first: the entrepreneur or the politician? For entrepreneur one can substitute banker, business person or even shopkeeper. I don’t think I can remember a time when markets, market sentiment and the general feeling of unease have been so prevalent. And it is the politicians who are creating it. However, it seems they have no idea how to solve it.
Where does one start? Business likes to have some idea of the direction in which local and national politics is going. Indeed, nowadays in the globally interconnected world of finance, what is happening in China can affect what is happening on Wall Street. All we needed to do is look at the US-Sino trade negotiations taking place now to see the impact on stock markets. A simple tweet from his nibs, the President of the USA, can have the Dow Jones Industrial zooming up or falling down. And in the UK just now, with so much uncertainty, the pound, the euro, the dollar and which way the FTSE 100 will swing is anyone’s guess. But, the point is it breeds a perception of chaos and that no one is in control.
The Prime Minister seems to be caught in the headlights hoping for something wonderful to happen to save her legacy. Miserable and overwhelmed as she appears, this then plays into the hands of Labour. Corbyn is a Brexiteer disguised as a remainer, who will do anything to get into power. This will then unleash the shadow chancellor McDonnell on his socialist policies. They may very well work. But, the whole context and feel of UK politics just now is not helping businesspeople do business.
Like you, I am sure that the heads of big banks like Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays have had conversations with May’s team to advise her on the doomsday outcomes she can expect. The leaders at BMW, Honda, JLR and others will also have been at pains to paint the post-apocalyptic picture to our politicians. Still they feud with each other over party lines and past differences. Heck, Jeremy Corbyn will not even sit in the same room at Chuka Umunna for crying out loud…
One thing is guaranteed in all of this, cast in stone with great certainty: while business has to bend and break and adapt and overcome to pay salaries, pensions and benefits, members of parliament and their mandarins will always get paid and never need to fear that the bank will be empty on the last Thursday of the month. While business has to pay its taxes and adhere to red tape and new laws, MPs do not have to concern themselves with such hardship. Their expenses, pensions and salaries are gold plated, bulletproof and corralled within the silver-lined bubble in which they live.
So, as this is an opinion piece, I have an idea for the likes of Boris Johnson, who is more than likely to parachute out of this smelling cleaner than a latrine at a convent. Just as business has to perform, maybe we should judge our MPs the same way. Perhaps it’s time to put in place a performance-related pay structure or wage freeze in times of crisis. I suppose there’s nothing better to wake them up from their lack of focus than an empty pay packet at the end of the month! And we should extend that to their extra curriculars as well. After all, it is rumoured that Johnson gets £5,000 a week for his newspaper columns.
The relationship between politics and business can be at times too cosy. But, in times such as this, our politicians should feel the pain as much business owners do. Maybe this way, they will think more about us and less about the political parties they represent when they are tasked to vote or what is right.
- Jim Duffy MBE, Create Special