The more I listen to Westminster politicians talk about business, the more I realise how little they understand or appreciate the challenges entrepreneurs and business owner’s face. In particular, they are clueless about small and medium sized companies, basing much of what they say on business growth and business policy around the issues that impact on the Jaguar Land Rover’s and BAE’s of this world.
The Prime ministers call last week for private sector bosses to give their staff a pay increase because we had experienced seven months of growth following seven years of recession was actually beyond clueless, and he should hang his head in shame in what was clearly blatant electioneering speak.
This week Ed Miliband, no doubt trying to be helpful, suggested that training and apprenticeship budgets should be handed directly to employers. Again that is fine if you have an army of people around you, but for the vast majority of firms the red tape and bureaucracy that surrounds anything to do with ‘public money’ is an absolute nightmare. Far better to let registered providers and colleges manage these funds, and support businesses through the complex and complicated processes. As Downtown Liverpool chairman David Wade-Smith often says the most expensive ‘free’ money is public sector cash!
Part of the reason why our political leaders are failing to engage effectively with us is that an increasing number of them are professional politicians who have never worked outside of the fantasy land that is the Westminster bubble.
You only have to spend a day in the House of Commons to appreciate how easy it is for an MP to get caught up in stuff that, within that environment, seems to be the most important thing on the planet, whilst to the rest of us it is usually hot air and bluster.
Politics has been ‘professionalised’ and I see little chance of that dramatically changing anytime soon. We will therefore need to find a way of helping our MP’s get some real life experience.
I would suggest, as a starter for ten, six weeks work experience programmes that are compulsory for all MPs to participate in. They could help on the shop floor, attend board meetings and spend a day working alongside a business owner. The only other stipulation I would make is that any company they worked with are companies with a turnover of no higher than £10million.
The disconnect between our elected representatives and the community – business and otherwise – is getting wider, and it needs to be addressed.