Business leaders heaped praise on David Cameron last night after he called for an end to "anti-business rhetoric" from politicians.
But the Prime Minister was accused of making a U-turn because only last month he joined Labour and Liberal Democrats in attacking excessive pay and bonuses. It is believed that he came under pressure to tone down the Government's language from senior businessmen, including some Conservative Party donors.
On 8 January, the Prime Minister told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "Payments for failure, those big rewards when people fail... make people's blood boil... it's the excessive growth in payment unrelated to success that's frankly ripping off the shareholder and the customer and is crony capitalism."
On 19 January, Mr Cameron endorsed moves to strip Fred Goodwin, the former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive, of his knighthood and called for the bank's bonuses to be limited.
Yesterday, he took a different tone, telling the Business in the Community charity: "In recent months we've heard some dangerous rhetoric creep into our national debate that wealth creation is somehow anti-social, that people in business are out for themselves. We have got to fight this mood."
Mr Cameron said he was sick of "anti-business snobbery" that suggests business has no inherent moral worth, is not to be trusted, and should stay out of social concerns.
"We see this in the debate on education. Put a young person into college for a month's learning, unpaid – and it's hailed as a good thing. Put a young person into a supermarket for a month's learning, unpaid – and it's slammed as slave labour," he said.
Labour accused Mr Cameron of being "totally confused and inconsistent". Chuka Umunna, the shadow Business Secretary, said: "He has abandoned the pretence that he will tackle irresponsible capitalism. He has chosen the very day when RBS dishes out hundreds of millions to loss-making investment bankers and British Gas announces huge profits to declare a truce with vested interests."
John Cridland, CBI director general, said: "Businesses will be relieved to hear the Prime Minister condemn the anti-business rhetoric that has soured recent public debate. Business is a force for good and wants to be at the vanguard of economic growth and social innovation, but it can only do this with public and political support."
U-turn: Cameron's changing tune
8 January 'Excessive growth in payments unrelated to success [is] ripping off the shareholder... [it's] crony capitalism and [it's] wrong.' (on Andrew Marr Show)
Yesterday 'In recent months we've heard some dangerous rhetoric creep into our national debate that wealth creation is somehow anti-social.'
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