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'Man up', Osborne tells businesses

At a breakfast in Davos this week, the chancellor said businesses need to defend themselves in public more.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 27 Jan 2014

A pleasant start to a Thursday morning for the chancellor, who at a breakfast in Davos organised by the CBI was apparently given a hearty slap on the back for his handling of the economy. Attendees, most of whom were FTSE 100 chief executives, said they were (pleasantly) ‘surprised’ by the IMF’s decision to upgrade the UK’s growth prospects earlier this week.

But in a speech at the breakfast, Osborne said businesses need to man up and stop hiding from negative sentiment. The chancellor is reported to have said businesses need to move on from a ‘financial crisis-era mentality’, and that they need to defend themselves more in public, putting more effort into telling a ‘success story’ about British business.

Companies are clearly frustrated: earlier this week, MT editor Matthew Gwyther reported that at an event for senior communications people at FTSE 250 companies, many were ‘fed up and defensive… about how their companies were treated by the public, the media and politicians.

‘Although the green shoots are now coming through nicely they remained wary and rather cheesed off.’

You only have to look at the debate over whether or not the boards at taxpayer-owned banks should receive higher bonuses to understand how tough it is out there for UK Plc. Last week, there was a backlash when it was suggested boards at Lloyds and RBS might get in line with their peers by voting to award bonuses of 200% salary. Alright, so it sounds like a lot – but workers at those two banks already earn considerably less than they would elsewhere. Surely, if they’re contributing to the economy, they deserve a reward?

Osborne also said he wanted big business to become more heavily involved in the UK’s technology sector. Perhaps we can expect the taxpayer-owned banks to lead the way in that particular field, too…

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