Bashing business could hurt recovery, says CBI

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The Independent Online

The leader of Britain's top employers' body has called on politicians to stop bashing business for fear it is damaging the already-fragile economy. John Cridland, the director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said he thought attacks on top bosses had increased as fears over economic growth had risen.

"The anti-business rhetoric that we saw in the autumn at the three party conferences has increased since," Mr Cridland said. "I don't think it's an accident that it has increased as public nervousness at the state of the economy has increased. As people feel understandably worried about our economic prospects, politicians are looking for some way to characterise that frustration."

After a week in which Stephen Hester, the Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive, bowed to pressure and gave up his bonus – and his predecessor Fred Goodwin was stripped of his knighthood – Mr Cridland said it seemed some politicians were implying that rewards for success were debatable, not just rewards for failure. "It's a long time since we have heard the Tony Blairs and Peter Mandelsons of this world saying they are relaxed about rewards for success," he said. "At the moment politicians are outbidding each other to pursue the crony capitalism line."

Mr Cridland's comments follow similar warnings from other prominent business leaders at the weekend. The advertising executive Sir Martin Sorrell said "indiscriminate business bashing" could hobble the private sector. And Michael Spencer, the chief executive of Icap, said the treatment of Mr Hester "was very negative indeed for the message it sends to the business community at large".

Mr Cridland is concerned about a continued public outcry as companies report their annual profits. Sustained criticism could hit confidence, growth and jobs. He said: "It is deeply dangerous because you only know the damage after it has been done, and that will be high-wealth, high-talent individuals deciding that Britain is not open for business."