Entrepreneurs assess the new government

Having a business-friendly coalition in government will change the pressure level for the entrepreneurs of this country


Standing side by side in the Downing Street gardens yesterday, new prime minister David Cameron and his deputy, Nick Clegg, appeared at ease in each other’s company at what some attendees described as a veritable love-in between the two party leaders.

Cameron and Clegg both hailed the dawn of a new era for UK politics after forming the first coalition since the Second World War. The agreement, they insisted, marked not just a new government but a new kind of government, where the interest of the country comes before those of their political parties. Indeed, despite reporters’ best efforts to goad them with things they’d said in their election campaigns (Cameron had answered ‘Nick Clegg’ when asked what his favourite joke was, apparently) they took it in good humour and maintained a united front. Whether this marriage of convenience is in fact a match made in heaven remains to be seen; both sides have certainly compromised on policy to make it happen. The Lib Dems have scrapped controversial plans for an amnesty for illegal immigrants, while the Tories have had to shelve plans to increase the inheritance tax threshold. However, the Conservatives have managed to keep their plan to reverse Labour’s National Insurance increase for employers – one of the key election policies they campaigned on, and a massive issue for the business community. At the same time, they have agreed to let the planned increase in employee contributions go ahead to part-fund ambitious tax reforms, including eventually raising the personal allowance threshold for income tax to £10,000 – a major policy win for the Liberal Democrats. An emergency budget has been promised within 50 days and plans to cut spending by £6bn this year to tackle the deficit have been praised by the Bank of England governor Mervyn King. There were predictions that a hung parliament could be disastrous for British business owners but from the opinions we’ve featured below, UK entrepreneurs are feeling cautiously optimistic about the new government. Here’s what they had to say:

Steve Smith, founder and director, trueCall:

“I was amazed by the compromises that both the Conservatives and LibDems were prepared to make to reach agreement, and the goodwill and respect that they each showed each other. “This didn’t look like an agreement reached through gritted teeth. I know this is very early days, but I’m an optimist, and if this level of co-operation can be maintained then we will all have a much smoother ride through the stormy weather ahead.”

Julie Meyer, chief executive, Ariadne Capital:

“Having a business-friendly coalition in government will change the pressure level for the entrepreneurs of this country. Labour gave lip service to the role of the entrepreneur, but when it came to policy, they strangled them. It seems to me that the big elephant in the room is everyone knows the UK entrepreneur will drive us out of recession into full-blown recovery, and the only party which was speaking the language of the entrepreneur was the Conservative party.     “They’re in charge, and that they have to work with the Lib Dem’s is a compromise and concession which will – I hope – make it easier for this government to be a one nation government.”

Nicko Williamson, founder, Climatecars:

“Cutting the deficit is our prime concern. If the coalition can work together and implement the Tory planned spending cuts the UK needs to make then it can be seen as positive. “Of course the situation is far from ideal, however if we can show the world our government is reducing UK borrowing and is serious about the deficit then it will be good for business.”

Charlie Mullins, managing director, Pimlico Plumbers:

“This morning I’m feeling like a dark cloud of gloom has been lifted from UK PLC. At long last we have the Prime Minister we voted for. It will be up to history to judge whether ultimately this coalition is a good idea, but from where I sit we do now have a stable platform to base our recovery on. “I believe, as I always have, that David Cameron is the man to take the UK out of recession, deal with the deficit, and get things back into the black. And I think his actions over recent days since the election have shown he is the cool head we need at this time. “Now that we have the details of the government in front of us it is clear that while Mandelson, Campbell, Balls and Brown were trying to defy mathematics and cynically steal power for their own selfish reasons, David Cameron was calmly working out the fine details of an agreement that can give us the stable future we need. It’s taken longer than expected, but at last we are all drinking out of the same tea pot – this is a government we can work with!”

Matt McNeill, founder Sign-up.to and eTickets.to:

“I hope the coalition will lead to a more cooperative and creative approach to government than we’ve seen in the past, which can ultimately only benefit UK business. However, if political differences lead to indecision and inaction, we’re in big trouble. “I think everyone realises our economic recovery is dependant on that not happening though, so there’s hope that things will get done and life will be made easier for UK businesses.”

Charles Purdy, director, Smart Currency Exchange:

  “So we have a new government in the UK. An interesting set up and certainly a bold move by David Cameron to move things forward.  It certainly must be a dream come true for many of the liberals who probably thought they would never have any ministerial positions ever.   “There has been lots of talk about the deals being done on electoral reform and nuclear deterrent but the key is still what is to be done about the huge budget deficit and the need to match government income to expenditure. Initial talk is about an emergency reduction in government expenditure of £6bn but this will only be the start and not nearly enough.”

Rob Lewis, executive chairman, Omnifone:

“UK business and entrepreneurial activity has suffered, particularly in recent years, under a shower of Labour instigated red tape, ever creeping bureaucracy and anti-business taxation. In truth, Gordon Brown seemed oblivious to the fact that successful entrepreneurship is critical to our country’s long term economic prospects, and that entrepreneurs need to be encouraged and incentivised to make this happen.   “I am hopeful that this new coalition government can reset the parameters, and enable the UK to compete effectively on what is a global stage. In an ever increasingly competitive global economy, this is critical if the UK is to retain its place long-term as one of the world’s leading economies. “Whilst any coalition is clearly a compromise, I very much hope the administration takes special care, particularly with regards to taxation policy, to ensure that entrepreneurs once more come to see the UK as the preferred European location for establishing new start-ups, and for investing in new start-ups. Our future is in their hands.”

Colin Wilkinson, director, Incubation Ltd:

“I’m glad that the conservatives are now in charge.  The outgoing Labour government were getting very tired, and needed to inject impetus into UK business.  Frankly, I’m not sure how having the Lib Dems in power share will impact business specifically, but the critical issue is whether they’ll form a coherent government with the Conservatives on the matters of key national policy. “We may be standing on the edge of a new parliamentary age in which the archaic adversarial style of politics is thrown out.  Imagine trying to run a business like that. I welcome the day when the interior designers tear down the two row of benches facing one another like some farcical football match and install in its place a lecture-theatre layout that will encourage intelligent debate and non-politicised decision-making for the benefit of the country and not the political parties.  “I shall be watching very carefully to see whether that happens.  If it does then I think the UK as a whole has a genuine opportunity to thrive once again – kick-started by a renaissance in the business sector, probably with SME’s leading the charge.”

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