Who do Britain’s entrepreneurs want to see in Number 10?
The race for PM is hotting up. But who do the UK's tycoons and business buccaneers want in Downing Street?
Members of Entrepreneurs Organisation (EO), a global association of more than 15 000 entrepreneurs, have weighed in with their opinions. Each member has a business turning over a minimum of US$1 million in annual revenue. The UK chapter is diverse in ethnicity, gender and industries represented, and therefore provides a substantive snapshot of what business is thinking and what business owners want from political leadership.
For Pajani Singah, co-founder of Amazonia Impact Ventures and EO London Chapter President, former chancellor Rishi Sunak is the right choice.
“For me, it has to be Rishi Sunak as reducing the national debt is high on his agenda. That’s an important step that society can only benefit from in the future,” he says. “There are those who say that continued borrowing means that future generations will be left to deal with today’s economic frailties. While that’s true, it ignores the very real costs of borrowing in the present. The state has to bear the cost of servicing debt right now and that’s money that could be spent on healthcare, education, and investment in entrepreneurial programmes.”
“The UK should be a global economic leader and simply cannot continue running high debt to GDP ratios like a developing country,” he adds. “We need to halt this spiralling debt issue both for the government and for private households alike. Rising interest rates will only worsen this issue and put a lot of households in difficult situations. My hope is that whoever the next prime minister is able to deal with this issue sensitively and act in the long-term best interests of all UK residents.”
Jane Hales, Co-Founder and Director of Sapio Research and EO Accelerator Chair, also believes that Sunak represents the best economic hope for the United Kingdom.
“While Sunak has few policies outside of those formulated under Boris Johnson, he’s not threatening unaffordable tax cuts, something that sets him apart from the rest of the field,” she says. “He’s also had hands-on experience with the economy for a long time and has done his best to curtail Johnson’s populist spending. He is, in other words, a steady and experienced hand at the tiller.”
When it comes to the other candidates, Hales is less optimistic and says that no one has really offered up any substantive policy points.
“Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt has sat on the fence with most issues,” she says. “She has, however, hinted that she’ll keep up with the United Kingdom’s commitment to achieving ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050, which is a good thing.”
According to Hales, former Minister for Equalities Kemi Badenoch is “clearly intelligent and her ‘war on woke’ is likely to be aimed at older Conservative Party voters. That said, her tactics around abandoning ‘net-zero’ until we can afford it are scary.”
Liz Truss, she says, is harder to get a real read on, especially given her switch from being an ardent Remainer to one of the party’s most fervent Brexiteers.
“Truss wants low taxes and her famous trade deals to pave the way for spending,” she says. “It’s worth pointing out, however, that she once famously spent £1 400 on lunch after the venue agreed to half her bill. That may make some voters worry about her ability to spend wisely on the country’s behalf.”
Tom Tugendhat, meanwhile, is most likely to be the next candidate voted off in Hales’ estimation.
“There’s been very little to make him stand out, other than unaffordable tax cuts,” she says.
Firdaus Nagree, Founder & CEO of FCI London and board member for EO UK is particularly critical of the candidates but also believes that Sunak is the best of the available candidates.
“From an entrepreneur's point of view, none of the options is particularly ideal,” he says. “However, Sunak does seem to be the least worse option.”
“What we need right now is someone who understands the fiscal and financial machinery intimately; we need someone who can realistically address high inflation and a downturn in the economy,” he adds. “Sunak understands the levers available far better than the other candidates because he has been working them and learning them for the last few years.
He also has the advantage of having been at the top table during a time of extreme crisis and has the navigational experience that the others don’t.”
“In addition,” Nagree says, “we need someone who understands entrepreneurship, start-ups and innovation and can promote smart immigration. It is through innovation and creating new (tech) business that a mid to long-term solution will be found. He understands this in a way that the other candidates don’t.”
The FCI London CEO believes that Sunak will keep taxation where it is or even raise it.
“In the short term this is not good for businesses but in the mid to long term it is necessary for the economy to recover,” he says. “Businesses that cannot adapt will fail and that is a reality the other candidates don't want to talk about.”
“We need someone intelligent, and globally connected, even if it is easy for the press to attack him for these things,” he concludes. “Britain is not a financial island and needs to better interact with the world at large to secure a better future and whilst he may not be the candidate many people would vote for, from an entrepreneur’s point of view, he’s currently the best we’ve got.”