John Longworth, Director General of the BCC
John Longworth, the Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has written to political leaders (including, I believe, Nigel Farage) asking them to avoid “tawdry politics” in the run-up to next May’s General Election. He fears that careless talk and casual commitments could damage business confidence — indeed the 2015 election is widely regarded as the most open for decades, and this in itself has created uncertainty amongst BCC members.
I was particularly struck by one of Mr. Longworth’s phrases: “You must focus on the causes, not the symptoms, of the challenges that face our United Kingdom”. Few would disagree, though the problem as always is that different political parties have very different analyses of the causes of problems. Was the recent financial crisis caused by excessive lending and the irresponsibility of bankers? By loose monetary policy from central banks? By the disaster of the €uro currency? (All of the above, probably — but different politicians would emphasise different angles).
But fair enough, Mr. Longworth. Let’s look at some of the key problems facing British industry — and facing your members, Sir. Most would agree that they suffer from over-regulation. But of course the source of most (not all) of that is Brussels, and as we know, there is little or nothing that British governments can do to prevent it. The only way to address it is to get Britain out of the EU, and only one party, UKIP, has a practical policy to do that.
Then there are energy prices, which are “creating an industrial massacre in Europe”. Not just my opinion — but that of out-going EU Commissioner for Industry Antonio Tajani. I was astonished that when asked to illustrate Tony Blair’s influence in Europe, former Commission Chairman Jose Manuel Barroso said “Without Tony Blair, we wouldn’t have got the EU’s Climate & Energy Package” (BBC World at One Dec 29th). Another black mark on the Blair escutcheon, because it’s that very package (as usual, gold-plated in the UK) which is creating the disaster of competitiveness that energy-intensive industries face in the UK (and the EU). And again, only UKIP has a policy response.
The old parties all want to stay in the EU, and are therefore stuck with the EU’s hugely damaging energy policy.
Then there’s immigration. Now Mr. Longworth’s members may well be benefiting from wage compression driven by mass immigration. But they also suffer from the pressures on housing and house prices, on schools and healthcare and hospitals, and — yes — on road traffic and infrastructure, which are adding to business costs and damaging their workers’ quality of life. And surely no one can support the current immigration policy which discriminates in favour of unskilled Eastern Europeans and against highly qualified Commonwealth citizens.
And again, only UKIP has a policy response. The powers that be in Brussels have spoken with total clarity: Britain may not challenge the EU’s fundamental principle of Free Movement of people. Until we leave the EU, we cannot adopt a rational immigration policy.
So perhaps Mr. Longworth has done UKIP — and Britain — a favour. Yes. Let’s look at the underlying causes of the challenges we face. And let’s vote for a party that has practical, workable policies to address those causes.