CBI boss Carolyn Fairbairn is on a hiding to nothing in appealing for 'change in tone' from Tories

This is the party whose prince beyond the gate Boris Johnson said “F- business” without any apparent shame

Monday 01 October 2018 09:25
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Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI, has called for a change in tone from the Tories
Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI, has called for a change in tone from the Tories

Yet for doing this - for putting forward the views held by the majority of the business community - she finds herself pilloried by the Brexiteer right as a treasonous hellspawn demon who doesn’t “believe in Britain” and doesn’t understand business like they do.

You can understand Ms Fairbairn’s appeal for a “change in tone” this morning. The organisation that arguably serves as the principle voice of business would really like to be able to do business with the current Conservative Government. Being at loggerheads with the Tory Party is anathema to it. It’s surreal that the CBI is in this position.

But calling for a change in tone from the party in its current state is a bit like the steward at a football match politely asking the away supporters if they’d mind not swearing about their opponents.

This, after all, is the party whose clown prince beyond the gate Boris Johnson said “f- business” without any apparent shame, and with the full throated support of his media lickspittles.

On those occasions when business leaders have broken cover to join Ms Fairbarin on the ramparts, the standard practice has been for a Bernard Jenkin or a Steve Baker or an Iain Duncan Smith to tour the TV studios and suggest that they know how to run, say, car companies better than the bosses of car companies do.

When this happens, highly paid BBC interviewers, who are supposed to be at the pinnacle of their profession, never seem to ask the obvious question. For the record it is: “How can you possibly say that when you’ve never actually run a business?”

How do you, as the head of a business lobby group, reasonably deal with this sort of situation? How do you reason with a party that is basically saying F- everyone who isn’t a paid up subscriber to Brexit Pravda?

Of course, they aren’t all lunatics and/or opportunists. The Tory Party has a sensible wing.

The trouble is it still thinks it can achieve its aims by doing things the old way; by playing nice, and conducting itself with decorum.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is its most prominent voice. He's the the man who in Government puts the pro business and the pro British economy case in cabinet.

However, in pubic he’s about as vocal as a mute swan hoping to snaffle a tasty morsel on the village pond before the ducks notice that it’s there.

His speech today? We’re still the party that cares about enterprise and we sort of still care about you, and we still think capitalism is great, honest. But I’m not going to mention Brexit because the rubes in front of me don’t want to hear anything other than yeah!, no deal, no surrender to the bally Europeans!

Ms Fairbairn and people like her used to be able to count on the Tories as the home team in the same way that the TUC regards Labour as the home team, even though the two organisations are officially politically neutral.

But with Hammond as the manager, and Business Secretary Greg Clark as his assistant, that team looks a bit like Macclesfield Town on current form.

For those who don’t follow football, they’re propping up the other 91 league clubs, have yet to win a game, and got thumped 8-0 by West Ham last week in the League Cup.

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