Jim Moore: Why big business doesn't deserve much sympathy

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The Independent Online

Outlook Forget hugging hoodies, Britons should go out and cuddle a chief exec.

Yes, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) says it is time for us to stop being negative about business and instead see it as "a force for good". Oh dear.

There is actually much in the commentary provided yesterday by John Longworth, the BCC's director general, that we've heard: businesses create jobs, provide training, help communities and so on. He could also have said they pay lots of tax, well at least those that don't – or are too small – to cut sweetheart deals with HM Revenue & Customs.

Some of his pleas will resonate with the public, such as calls for better infrastructure and training and for more lending to business.

And to be fair to Mr Longworth, he is trying to be positive and says the UK could do very well over the next few years.

But it is when he tells politicians they should do more to shoot down a "negative" public perception of business and wealth creation that he goes awry.

Mr Longworth says he speaks for businesses both large and small. Many people feel sympathy for the latter. It starts to evaporate as one moves up the scale. Because while executives have frozen the pay of their staff, and despite falling share prices, they last year paid themselves rises averaging 50 per cent.

And despite corporation taxes continuing to fall, we have yet to see any concrete signs of a reverse of the trend that has seen headquarters moved lock stock and barrel to the Channel Islands, or Switzerland, or Dublin.

Then there are the continuing whines about the 50 per cent top rate of tax from business groups at a time when everyone else is getting brutally squeezed.

The business community needs to get its own house in order before calling on others for help.