Is the CBI doing its job?

The Confederation of British Industry positions itself as the 'voice of British business'. But as we become increasingly distrustful of businesses, questions are being raised about the efficacy of the institution.

by Paul Simpson

“There is a real feeling among people I know that no-one is speaking up for British business.” When Guy Hands, one of the UK’s leading private equity investors, made that remark in an interview with Management Today, he was directly criticising the present government, which he regards as a Conservative rehash of the big tax and spend Labour administrations of the 1960s and 1970s.

Yet Hands’ conviction that “It has become fashionable to be anti-business in this country” raises one other obvious question: is the Confederation of British Industry, which positions itself as the ‘voice of British business’, actually doing its job?

The question is particularly relevant given that, just over seven years ago, the CBI launched The Great Business Debate in an attempt to improve public’s confidence in Britain’s private sector. The campaign didn’t get much traction at the time and, as of February 2022, only 49% of Britons said they trusted business. The fact that the public places even less trust in government and the media is not much consolation.

The inevitable Nigel Farage, angered by the CBI’s fierce, but ultimately futile, opposition to Brexit once declared that the organisation was unfit to represent British business, calling it a corporatist “arm of government”.

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