IoD conference: government gets a B for effort

Politicians were keen to stress their accomplishments this morning, but they must keep their heads down.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 19 Sep 2013

There’s always a ‘back to school’ vibe about the Institute of Directors’ autumn conference: government ministers like to stand at the front and list what they’ve done over the summer.

And lo, this morning it came to pass: George Osborne, with a neat new haircut for the new term, pointed out that the government’s austerity policy has finally begun to pay off.

‘Over the last few years [there has been] intense pressure to change course. Intense pressure to spend and borrow even more, to take the easy way out. But [we] didn’t buckle,’ he said.

‘Plan B would have been a disaster then and remains a disaster now. For yes, some are still calling for more borrowing and spending - but British business understands that Britain needs to live within our means - and you have my unwavering commitment to see our plan through.’

Boris Johnson - a little scruffier, with shoes that clearly haven’t been polished since his kickabout with David Cameron at the end of the spring term - was equally as proud of his achievements (if a little wordier, and in poorer taste).

‘I think it is fair to say the UK economy has finally reached its Costa Concordia moment,’ he said.

‘After two years and a half of effort the parbuckling is complete, the rotation has been accomplished, and though the damage is manifest and the caissons have not yet been drained of debt, the keel is off the rocks and at last we can feel the motion beneath.’

Although hopefully, unlike the Costa Concordia, Britain's economy isn't about to be towed away for scrap...

They’re proud of their achievements, but at this stage the business community is only awarding them a B. Speaking to delegates, the mood was notably one of caution. ‘Things may be beginning to look up, but we need to keep our heads down,’ was the message from businesses.

There is a sense that the politicians are still clinging desperately to good news. In an argument that London should be considered the ‘engine room of the economy’ (that old chestnut), Boris pointed out that ‘the EU Commission tells us that Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire is the third most competitive region in Europe.

‘Why? Because London is the most competitive city in the whole of Europe and it drives jobs across the UK.’

Northern regions were conspicuous by their absence in that - and with surveys consistently showing that the recovery is primarily centred in the south of the country, the government’s focus over the next few months needs to be oop north.

With HS2 on the way, it’s taking baby steps - but to bring about a proper recovery, the government should take a class in northern economics.

An entrepreneur's view point on the mood at the IoD conference from A Suit That Fits co-founder David Hathiramani

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