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Nick de Bois MP: Parts of the Coalition are contributing to Britain's anti-business culture

DeBois NickNick de Bois is the Conservative MP for Enfield North. Follow him on Twitter.

I completely understand the reasons for the attacks on Stephen Hester and (ex-Sir) Fred Goodwin. For some people the attacks have been satisfying, cathartic even, and frankly in the case of Goodwin he almost definitely deserved it. Yet the decision to strip him of his knighthood is inconsistent, populist and as Alastair Darling said "there is something a little tardy" about it.

But like going to a good party and letting your hair down, drinking too much and dancing when you know your efforts are a throw back to the 70s and really should not be put on display, it may feel good for a few hours, but the next day will be wiped out by an almighty hangover. We are now dangerously close to a hangover for Britain's business, and not just the financial sector.

The PM arrived in Downing Street with a mission to show that Britain was open for business and to focus on private sector growth through exports and inward investment. He has himself started to rebuild foreign trade relations with overseas partners neglected under the Blair years (the Gulf in particular). His appointment of Lord Green was a sound move, and demonstrates a commitment to the export growth outside the turbulent Eurozone we so desperately need. And recently the Government rightly responded to criticism that it was focussing on austerity too much and has started preaching the growth agenda and appeared to understand the message that for business to succeed, governments must set the macro picture then back off. Liberating the regulatory burdens, loosening employment laws, introducing enterprise zones, supporting apprenticeships, flexible business rates and easing corporation tax were a big step in the right direction.

However, the last few weeks have undermined much of this government-led progress. Regardless of the understandable temptation to bash the bankers, the prevailing anti-business climate is in danger of pulling down the shutters on the entrepreneurial agenda. The anger is, rightly, at there not always being a link between pay and performance, but the rhetoric and noise recently sends a distinctly worrying message to would-be investors or start up entrepreneurs. The danger with the anti-capitalist rhetoric against entrepreneurs, those at the top of the food chain, is that Britain needs them, and they don't necessarily need us.

Twenty-something entrepreneurs or financiers with no family ties, a great deal of personal wealth and a lot of ideas for future ventures, are incredibly mobile. If in Britain we suggest to these wealth creators that they are greedy, out of touch or, to borrow a phrase from the Leader of the Opposition, a 'predator', then they'll pack their bags and go to Dubai, or America, or Brazil. Those countries will happily take their ideas, jobs and taxes. We need to be attracting these minds to Britain, not sending them packing. This is not a wholly political problem; MPs and media commentators are all part of the present anti business coalition.

Backbench MPs are limited in what they can do to show that we appreciate the role businesses play in providing jobs to our constituents. Next week I am staging a repeat of my jobs fair, and as well as there being over 400 jobs available on the day, Virgin Pioneers with Virgin media will be there offering young people the opportunity to start their own business with a well designed scheme. Self-employment is something the Government is rightly wholeheartedly encouraging.

However, the problem is that we say we are open for business, but the prevailing mood slams the door in the face of success.

The government can play its part by trying to change the tone of the debate and move back to a pro-business, pro-jobs agenda. Now is the time for business to be on the front foot, and we need to change our approach. We improve legislation for small businesses but don't ensure the banks provide the financial liquidity needed for them to succeed. We have a Prime Minister who works to promote business, but a Business Secretary who seems at times almost anti-capitalist.

This isn't a wholly political issue but I hope politics will play its part in a more positive fashion as it has done until recently.


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