In recent days, it has felt alarmingly like our political leaders have left the pitch. With the Government and the Opposition both agonising over leadership contests and underground coups, a worrying narrative has started to creep in. Scaremongering, talking down the economy, and negative statements about pulling investment from the UK have created unnecessary uncertainty. Just at the precise moment the UK is desperate for calm, strong, confident leadership, there is a vacuum.
I’ve already called out the business builders, those true heroes of the economy, who create two thirds of the jobs, who I know will be doing the right thing in the post-referendum world– getting up, running their businesses, focusing on the things they can control (customers and the products/ services they sell them), not the things they can’t. But it’s still disheartening to see story after story that focuses on the negative especially from our politicians. Particularly when this current landscape provides so many opportunities For example, it is all too easy to see the weakened pound as a disaster – but many of our Small & Medium Businesses tell us that they see this as an opportunity to create a golden age of exporting with a weaker pound. Remember post ERM – a genuine crisis which eventually signaled 15 years of unprecedented growth; low inflation; falling unemployment. And don’t forget, the UK hasn’t left the EU yet – the trading opportunities afforded by membership will remain in place for at least the next two years.
The last thing anyone wants is for economic gloom to be created by deafening self-fulfilling prophecies.
So, it was good news to see in the FT today that the Chancellor has pledged to slash corporation tax to encourage businesses to still invest in the UK following the referendum vote.
We need to see more of this positive political leadership. Having served as the Government’s Chief Operating Officer, I know only too well that when party distractions take over, the machinery of government can grind to a halt. This is a crucial moment in time for our country.
Will big business continue to invest with ambition and optimism?
Will politicians focus on the best interests of UK, and not the short term self-centred personality contest?
Only time will tell. But until then, we must keep campaigning for these positive steps that present our proud nation of entrepreneurs as dynamic and open for business. This is a great first step. And I hope it’s a sign that the Government is going to keep delivering for businesses big and small. If it is, then we should address some other pain points for business builders – perhaps go further on red tape – that debiliating bureaucracy that holds back entrepreneurship? What about radical abolition of the business rates system, admittedly improved during the last Budget but still archaic and outdated in a digital, omnichannel age?
Small & Medium Businesses power our economy, creating two thirds of all jobs. Policies and commitments that free them and support them will steer us through the economic uncertainty. When the politicians return to the field of leadership, they will find that once again, it is the entrepreneurs, the business builders that kept us in play.
Stephen Kelly is CEO of Sage plc and I publish with his permission. This blog first appeared on Linked in.