With less than two weeks to go until the election we now have a letter from 5,000 small businesses pledging their allegiance to one party and it’s the blue party again.
Furthermore, that letter is once again published in The Telegraph where, this morning, the newspaper’s website calls it a “boost for David Cameron”…
Talk about impartiality in journalism but this appears to be yet another blatant advertorial. By implying in their front page headline that this is a boost for one party’s leader looks like an attempt to sway polls and opinion.
The BBC reports that the 5,000 signatories were encouraged to sign via The Conservatives’ website.
What the Beeb also quite rightly points out is that there are around 5 million small businesses in the UK. So whilst 5,000 might sound like a lot that is just 0.1% of the small firms across the nation.
This comes just a few weeks after I questioned the first letter from business leaders where some of the richest business people in the UK also backed the Tory party. But this time we don’t have big names with incredible wealth. (Or do we?)
On that point though we should have a slightly more realistic sector of society here – I did ask, after the 100 big signatories put their names behind the blue party’s push, where the small businesses were. Scanning through the names on the list it’s plain to see tree surgeons, podiatrists and photographers, representing what I see as a more down to earth cross section of society than the Bannatynes, Baronettes and Knights in the first list of millionaire business leaders.
Where though are the other 99.9% of UK SMEs? There are still more than 4.9 million small firms not on the list. Or do most small businesses think that disassociating themselves from politics is better than being seen to bang the drum for one political party over another? (Would a UKIP supporter do business with a Green Party supporter and vice versa?)
What I’d like to see is an analysis of the data in this latest list – where these small firm signatories are, what their turnover is and which industries they work in. Do they benefit from public sector cuts so that they can offer their own alternative services? Are they already suppliers to and have benefited from the last Government?
There are some appealing aspects to the whole issue of who governs the country and the plight of small businesses mentioned in the story of the SME signatories though.
Raising the point that there are so many self-employed people and that their employment rights and pension options need serious attention are quite rightly flagged up.
That the Labour party’s business minister points out that business rates are a problem is a key issue for small firms. I know for a fact that high business rates play a part in driving the smaller firms away from the High Street. I’ve seen at least two long-established local businesses disappear because they couldn’t afford the rates and the rent on top of trying to make a living wage.
But where are the comments from the orange, the green and the purple parties? Do they not have opinions on this and policies that are small firm friendly?
What we do really need is a Political comparison website where we can all see at a glance what the parties will be doing for us. I’d like to see a party comparison website that allows me to tell it that I want to see family friendly rights, fairness, an open and transparent landscape where businesses of all sizes can work fairly, a well-supported and functioning national health service, where I can say I want to see immigration dealt with properly, where the environment is taken seriously, where there is greater parity and equality between the richest in society and the poorest.
I want to enter that information into such a website and see which party I should vote for, or all they still pretty much all the same?
UPDATE: 17:05 – It looks like The Guardian have found some mileage in the story, picking up on the point that the article did look like a piece of advertorial – How the Conservatives orchestrated business leaders