Does he take Sugar?

8 06 2009

Alan SugarNews that business owners are applying in large numbers to stand for parliament must be one aspect of the growing dissatisfaction with the existing political options. Conservative Central Office said it had received about 3,000 applications since David Cameron appealed for candidates from outside politics and about a third had come from business owners.

It is understandable that the kind of people who typically set up and run their own businesses would be feeling frustrated with politics today. Being an entrepreneur means trying to make things happen quickly. It means taking risks. It often also means working in new and untested areas of the economy. The UK, as I have argued here for some time, is not typified by any of these entrepreneurial traits.

An influx of people into government with experience of running  businesses, or for that matter schools, hospitals or any significant parts of our economy, would not be a bad thing in itself. For too long government has become the preserve of professional politicians. The front benches are full of people who went straight from student politics into mainstream politics with little experience of doing anything else, occasionally stopping off for a brief stint in PR, like Cameron himself, or in the media like James Purnell.

This deficit of real experience in running things has led to an increase in the number of unelected people being brought into government via peerages in an attempt to make up for it, hence Lord Drayson for example at the (now abolished) Department of Industry, Innovation and Skills. The terminally crippled Prime Minister has even turned to Sir Alan Sugar in a desperate attempt to marry a reputation for entrepreneurialism with celebrity and thus kill two birds with one stone.

More real life experience would no doubt be an asset in government. But, and it is a big but, this alone would not be enough to create a new start for British politics. We would still need to know what these people believed in and what policies they would wish to pursue. At the moment the Conservatives are no less empty of a real political vision than the discredited Brown government. New blood by all means, but new politics still seems a long way off.

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2 responses

8 06 2009
Leigh Caldwell

Hi Rob

So what kind of policies would you propose?

My take on the implications of unelected ministers (and one other announcement from Friday which has gone almost unnoticed) is http://www.knowingandmaking.com/2009/06/two-hidden-stories-which-could.html.

That article is written with a more sympathetic view towards the government than yours, but I find myself agreeing with some of the points you’ve raised in previous blogs about productivity and investment.

8 06 2009
Johny Morris

Hrrrm high profile businessmen being brought into politics by failing administrations? Seem to remember Branson being offered a similar gig at the fag end of the Thatcher term. Not sure how successful he was. Anybody out there know?

The matching of political stunts and individual hubris is often an entertaining distraction offered at times of political difficulty. It’s easy to see what’s in it for the politician – a couple of days respite from damaging headlines, setting the news agenda etc. But for the businessman? Well we know Alan fancies a bit of show biz glitz (having just finished Apprentice he’s probably kicking his heels a bit). And, like many self made men, his pride sugests that if he could run a company he could probably run the country. Wrong Mr Sugar. Politics is it’s own prefession. As we saw in the Goodwin pension scandle, none politicians taking politically sensitive decisions rarely leads to acceptable results. I don’t think we need a bloke whose own track record of failing to be able to satisfy even the limited audiance of the stock exchange promted him to re-privitise his own company, advising on political decisions affecting the country.

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