The director general of the CBI has said political extremists on the right and left of British politics are causing “great harm to the economy”
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn told the Confederation of British Industry’s annual conference that extremism from no-deal Tory Brexiters and pro-nationalisation Corbynites meant “we are facing a danger that could get in the way of a bright future. And it takes the form of extreme ideology. We see it on both sides of the political divide.”
‘No party has the answers to Brexit’
Fairbairn’s speech came before the leaders of the three main (English) political parties addressed business leaders and followed the CBI president John Allan’s opening speech when he said: “Currently no party has the answers [to Brexit].”
The Tesco chairman said: “It’s not as simple as ‘getting Brexit done’. Or ‘sorting Brexit in six months’. Or even ‘stop Brexit’. Whatever happens in this election we’ll be negotiating with the EU for years to come, whether as a close friend or distant neighbour, so we need to have an honest conversation.”
Johnson announces major tax cut u-turn
In his first address to the CBI as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announced a major u-turn, shelving plans for promised corporation tax cuts from 19% to 17% in April in order to spend the £6bn on the NHS and other public services.
“Disappointing but not devastating” was Allan’s response to the tax cut delay on BBC Radio 4’s World at One.
Johnson said the Tories understand that business “creates the wealth that pays for the NHS” and that because the health service is the “nation’s priority” the Conservatives were “postponing further cuts in corporation tax”.
On Brexit, he insisted there was “absolutely no reason” a EU-UK trade deal would not be in place by the end of next year and tried to woo business leaders by pledging tax cuts relating to research and development, employer national insurance contributions and a business rates review.
Fairbairn said postponing the corporation tax cuts to instead invest in public services “could work for the country if it is backed by further efforts to the costs of doing business and promote growth.”
‘Nonsense to claim I’m anti-business’ says Corbyn
In his address to the CBI, Jeremy Corbyn said: “It is sometimes claimed that I am anti-business – actually, this is nonsense.”
The Labour leader focused on his party’s plans for a “Green Industrial Revolution” underpinned by a new generation of apprenticeships and said Labour’s plan “to get Brexit sorted within six months” was good for business.
Corbyn said Labour will raise corporation tax to 26%.
Labour has promised a “radical manifesto” and has already announced plans for free broadband for all, increasing the minimum wage to £10 per hour and massive investment in the NHS. Further nationalisation plans are expected to be unveiled when Labour’s manifesto is published on Thursday.
Labour policies will ‘crack the foundations of our economy’
Fairbairn criticised Corbyn’s plans ahead of his address to the CBI conference, telling Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday that Labour’s nationalisation policy would “freeze investment”.
Asked if Corbyn was a “friend to business”, Fairbairn replied: “We look at the policies on the table and we have real concerns that they are going to crack the foundations of our economy.”
Fairbairn described Labour’s plan to part nationalise British Telecom in order to deliver free broadband, as a “bolt from the blue” and said their overall nationalisation plans “will freeze investment.”
She continued: “I have talked to businesses who are already sitting there thinking ‘maybe we’re next’. So we do say again to Labour – work with business, work out different answers to these problems. But this programme, that is appearing to value none of the contribution that business makes, will simply shut investment out of our country.”
Dame ‘worries’ about Tory’s ‘brightest and best’ immigration policy
The Dame admitted “worry” about the Conservative’s pledge to reduce immigration by admitting only the “brightest and the best” saying: “If you do want to build 200,000 houses a year, you don’t just need the architects and the designers, you need the carpenters, you need the electricians, you need the labourers. We need people to come and help us renew our economy.
“It’s not just the brightest and best, it’s people at all skill levels across our economy that we need.”
Speaking after Corbyn’s address to the CBI conference, Fairbairn said: “It’s time to see Labour open the door to real and lasting partnership with business, not stick with outdated ideologies that would close it in their face.
“The challenge is not what Labour want to achieve, it’s how.”
Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson told the CBI that her party’s anti-Brexit stance meant hers was “the natural party of business”.
Who is Dame Carolyn Fairbairn?
Fairbairn is a former journalist for the Economist who has also worked at the World Bank. She has held senior roles in broadcasting at both the BBC (director of strategy) and ITV (as a member of the executive board) and director of the Competition and Markets Authority, the Financial Services Authority, and as a non-executive director of the Lloyds Banking Group, the Vitec Group and Capita plc. She was a trustee of Marie Curie and also worked as a member of Tory PM John Major’s Number 10 Policy unit from 1995-97.
On the day after the general election, December 13, she will celebrate her 59th birthday.
When she received her Damehood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June this year in recognition for her services to business Priti Patel called it a “stain on our democracy.”
The current home secretary was a backbench MP when she made made the comment, telling the Daily Telegraph: “It’s totally inappropriate. This is a reward for the regressive campaign that the CBI has conducted against our country and the result of the referendum. The British public will be appalled to see that the doom-mongers of Brexit are receiving honours for their role in the Brexit betrayal. This is a stain on our democracy and must end.”