REALITY BITES: It's time to call the bluff of the small business lobby. It is outrageous to argue that the employees of small firms are less entitled to rights than others

REALITY BITES: It's time to call the bluff of the small business lobby. It is outrageous to argue that the employees of small firms are less entitled to rights than others - Tony Blair has a message for his ministers: Think small. This may sound odd comin

by RICHARD REEVES, a consultant and business writer

Tony Blair has a message for his ministers: Think small. This may sound odd coming from a PM who excels at grandiose rhetoric and who is not shy of spelling out a new moral order for the entire world. But in this instance he is pushing one of the hot buttons of political discourse, using a preface to a report by the Small Business Council to demonstrate his small-is-beautiful credentials to the business community.

It's not a new trick, of course: politicians of all political stripes have long been required to heap praise, encouragement and all too often favours on the men and women running the UK's smallest firms. The governments of the grocer's daughter were required to worship at the shop doors of the small retailer.

You know the small-is-beautiful story: small firms are the little platoons of the economy, providing more than half the jobs and most of the entrepreneurial spirit. They are bullied by the big corporates, who pay them late, and discriminated against by the big banks, who refuse them credit or charge them through the nose for it. They are sinking under the weight of government red tape and burdened by laws protecting workers. Yet they valiantly soldier on, keeping the wheels of commerce turning.

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