Opinion

Despite Donald Trump giving businessmen in politics a bad name, firms have a lot to offer government

4 min read

29 August 2015

Donald Trump is giving businessmen in politics a bad name. But the business community has so much to offer central and local government.

Donald Trump’s assault on the White House has turned from curiosity to concern. His nasty asides, mainly at the expense of Mexicans and women, have shocked many, but seemingly have had very little impact on his quest to be the Republican Party’s candidate in next year’s US election. 

His controversial views are a poor reflection on his upbringing, his intellect and his emotional stability. But it is also a poor reflection on the business world and a squandering of the chance to bring years of undoubted business leadership, ability and acumen to government.

What of Trump’s views on economic policy, business investment and growth? Of, no pun intended, apprentices or youth unemployment, the US energy policy or exporting power?

We’ve heard little – save for the diatribes against the Chinese and again the Mexicans? Whatever did they do to him – a dodgy burrito? Sorry – that was a Trumpism. 

There seems to be a great and seemingly unbridgeable void between the worlds of business and government. Political leaders like to covet business stars, mostly high-profile entrepreneurs rather than the greyer investment types or industrialists.But as soon as they get anywhere near a political office they seem to fade to grey, shrivel, lose confidence and voice.

We’ve seen it happen to Alan Sugar – who can remember anything he did when employed by the Labour party? Digby Jones? Stephen Green? We certainly remember Mary Portas but mainly for the wrong reasons – her future of the high street suggestions failing to inspire the industry or MPs.

You can read and listen to the same criticisms being made against Michelle Mone in her new role as a rekindler of the working class entrepreneurial spirit.

“What does she know? Who said she can speak on behalf of entrepreneurs?” Part of it is jealousy and part of it is that old mental block of never the twain shall meet – business and government.

It is such a shame. Business men and women have a lot to offer the government – perhaps our political leaders and business leaders are aiming too high and too broadly. We should encourage much more business involvement in government decisions on a local authority basis or even smaller – a town hall basis.

If there is a lack of trust between the two sectors – fear of over-regulation, interfering policies, rates and taxes – then more dialogue, more insight into the decision making of both sides would be helpful.

Get out there. Make some contacts in local government, meet and communicate on formal or informal occasions. Get to know each other better.

Another option is to get in there. Stand yourself for a town councillor position – you don’t even have to nail your colours to any one political party – run as an independent. Mix with the accountants and teachers and artists. Get your views across – stand up for the business community and talk about and debate important issues such as training, unemployment or infrastructure.

Don’t mention Mexicans and don’t waste your opportunity to make a difference.