David Prosser: Make room for Tesco boss in Team Cameron

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Outlook Is Sir Terry Leahy, the Tesco boss, really planning on retiring next year, aged just 55? Despite widespread scepticism yesterday that this intensely driven business leader – the outstanding FTSE 100 chief executive of his generation – really plans to stop working, Sir Terry insists that post-Tesco, he simply plans to concentrate on his private investments.

As David Cameron begins his "big conversation" about the economy with the public, here's one early suggestion: sign Sir Terry up for a role in the Government as soon as possible. The ruthless streak he has shown in relentlessly driving Tesco forward is exactly what will be needed if Britain's economic and business prospects are to be turned around over the next five years.

Even the Tesco boss's departure has been a textbook example of succession planning that rivals such as Marks & Spencer can only have watched with envy. The news of Sir Terry's departure and a smooth replacement from within was dealt with in a brief statement yesterday morning, of which there had not been even a whisper of an advance leak.

It's not just business acumen that Sir Terry would bring to government, but also common sense and propriety. He has certainly been well-paid at the grocer, but this is a company that has never been caught up with the trappings of corporate glory – take a look, for instance, at its shabby head office in an out-of-the-way industrial estate in Hertfordshire.

Above all, Sir Terry would be a fabulous recruit because he has been so thoroughly apolitical in business. Tesco, for example, studiously stayed out of the National Insurance row during the election campaign, unlike almost every other retailer. There were no cheap shots and no point-scoring – just a pragmatic pledge to work with whoever the voters elected.

There are plenty of people in this country who detest the way in which Tesco has become such a dominant force. Their views are understandable. Still, wouldn't it be nice to have the man responsible for that dominance on your side? Every little helps.