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The final leaders’ debate: Business verdict

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Last night’s leaders’ debate finally focused on the huge economic challenges facing the UK: where must we make cuts in public-sector spending? which taxes must rise; and, the one we at Real Business feel most strongly about, how can companies and entrepreneurs be encouraged to generate growth?

The now-glaring ideological divide is between Labour’s insistence that we must preserve huge government spending in the short run to protect the recovery; and the Conservatives’ view that growth is better delivered by businesses, rather than state spending.

Gordon Brown’s message, that the Tories’ swift cuts will jeopardise the recovery and could push Britain into a double-dip recession, is both chilling and mildly convincing – the Tories’ top financial brains have, frankly, not played the economic crisis well. Might the Tories have let the banks go to the wall…? The sniff of catastrophic might-have-beens lingers.

David Cameron, on the other hand, at last injected some dynamism and hope into the debates. If anyone looked like a champion of enterprise, it was the Conservative leader. He talked of entrepreneurial spirit, of innovation, as if he meant it. Yes, many cold towels must be applied in the coming months to the fragility of the recovery, and whether the government should continue its quantitative easing/low interest rate policy. That is for big brains deep in the bowels of the Treasury and the Bank of England.

But it must surely be right that true growth will only come from enterprise and the encouragement of business growth. It must also, surely, be true that massive waste exists in government that, if reduced, would not jeopardise growth. Overall, in a tight contest, I gave it to Cameron.

We do live in dangerous times. Rash decisions could indeed scupper the recovery. But at some point, Britain must trust itself to start rebuilding. That time is now.

i want to know what you think, especially if you disagree violently. 

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