Limits of Economic Advice to the Coalition

David Cameron’s special advisory committee of ten on economic strategy includes five business graduates, five knights of the realm, three retailers, three asset strippers, two accountants, a banker, a lord, an advertising exec, a publishing exec, and Sir James Dyson. Only the last named has a background in manufacturing and is likely to have got his hands dirty at work.

So what advice will they offer the PM at their quarterly meetings? CBI president, Helen Alexander’s position is reasonably clear as ex-CEO of Economist Group. Free market ideology is her pitch: deregulation, non-progressive and low taxation, fervent believer shareholder primacy, a minimised public sector and, for want of a better word, a reclusive government.

Who would disagree? Well, not Top Shop boss Sir Philip Greene who was forced to pass ownership of his private holding company, Arcadia, to his Monaco based wife in order to avoid UK taxation. And probably not Sir Martin Sorrell (featured elsewhere on this site), Sir Michael Rake (ex boss of KPMG, chair BT, and directorship collector), Sir Christopher Gent (one time banker, Chair GlaxoSmithKline, ex boss of Vodaphone), or Sir Nigel Rudd (chartered accountant, ex boss of Williams Holdings, Chair BAA and directorship collector). Fat cats all, their experience of manufacturing industry is extremely limited.

Cameron appears to recognise the importance of industry, especially of manufacturing, but to be in thrall to the business lobby. But it is the business lobby that is destroying UK industry by its blind acceptance of shareholder wealth maximisation, as the crucial test.

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