Simon English: Why did these chief executives call for their own customers to be impoverished?

Outlook For a cautious, perhaps even somewhat shy man, Simon Wolfson was unusually forthright. Certain in fact. George Osborne's deficit reduction programme was vital. It would "improve business and consumer confidence" said a letter to The Daily Telegraph, signed by Wolfson and 34 other business leaders back in October 2010.

"The private sector should be more than capable of generating additional jobs to replace those lost in the public sector," the letter continued. Full speed ahead.

A result in yesterday: sales at Next, where Wolfson is chief executive, are down 7 per cent by some measures. Meanwhile unemployment soars and the deficit is getting wider rather than narrowing. Growth is as near zero as makes no difference, which exacerbates both problems.

Next is still a tremendously profitable business and by all accounts Wolfson – that's Baron Wolfson of Aspley Guise to you (his Dad is also a Conservative life peer, by complete coincidence, and was also once chairman of Next, ditto) – is a highly skilled retailer.

Perhaps he should stick to it. He's allowed to have political views and to donate to a political party (he has and does), but it's not clear why bosses of public companies should feel the need to define the nation's economic policy.

It might be worth having a quick look at the fate of some of the other signatories to this infamous letter. Ben Gordon of Mothercare had to quit after a series of profit warnings. Gerald Corbett of Britvic oversaw a profits warning and a shares slump. Bob Wigley at Yell Group has seen sales tumble at a business struggling for its future. And Charles Dunstone of Carphone Warehouse had to abandon his joint venture with Best Buy due to appalling consumer confidence.

The boards and shareholders of these companies might be asking why their chairmen and chief executives were speaking out in favour of policies that were bound to impoverish their own customers.

Deficits come and deficits go, even this one will eventually. In the meantime, what companies like Next need is as many people as possible in full-time employment.

By natural inclination, most top executives are Tories, on the assumption that the party is better for business. It's not always obvious that this is so. The Conservative Party can be guaranteed to bend over backwards for the City (New Labour did too) but that's not necessarily the same thing.

Perhaps it is time for the 35 business leaders to resend their old letter and make adjustments for the events since it was first penned.

And perhaps the chief executive starter kit – all new recruits get handed one – needs an addition to the usual list of instructions. Don't diddle your expenses. Or your secretary if you can possibly help it. And stay away from macroeconomics. It's not what we pay you for.

Suggested Topics
News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Life and Style
The spring/summer 2015 Louis Vuitton show for Paris Fashion Week
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Law Costs

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?