David Prosser: Cameron's strange choices for a council of business advisers
Friday 01 October 2010
Outlook Having enjoyed the support of so many business figures during the election campaign, particularly on the issue of national insurance increases, the Prime Minister is no doubt keen to keep on their right side during his term of office. The launch today of a "Business Advisory Group" for 10 Downing Street will help with that, even if David Cameron's publicly stated intention in appointing these figures is slightly different.
Still, while there is no doubt that all of the business leaders on the taskforce will be able to offer some valuable insights into concerns or opportunities arising in theirparticular industries, the long list of advisers includes a few names that may raise eyebrows.
Take Sir Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of WPP. The founder of what is one of the world's largest advertising and marketing companies, his business credentials are not in doubt. But his decision to move the headquarters of WPP to Dublin two years ago to save on tax leaves a rather sour taste in the mouth.
Then there's Paul Walsh, the chief executive of drinks company Diageo. It is still based here, but Mr Walsh's membership of the taskforce will give him ample opportunity to repeat privately to Mr Cameron what he has been saying publicly of late: that any adverse changes to the corporation tax regime might prompt his company to go elsewhere too.
One might argue it is to Mr Cameron's credit that he isprepared to seek the counsel of those who have chosen to beconfrontational about particular policies. The row over the appointment of Sir Philip Green as agovernment adviser, despite his well-documented tax avoidance strategies, does not seem to have put the Prime Minister off making further appointments that have potential for embarrassment.
However, Mr Cameron will be aware that one criticism of his predecessors in government was they were too often cravenlysubservient to the interests of big business – most notably in the failure to properly regulate the banks, but in plenty of other instances too. In that context, some of his new advisers will be uneasy bedfellows.
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