The political debates that were hosted by three TV networks ahead of the last general election in 2010 provided an interesting insight into the political strategy of each party leader. While the CBI’s Annual Conference did not pit them against each other, it did see all three speak within a short space of time.
At the heart of prime minister David Cameron’s future plans was reform of the European Union and a new £15n transport investment, but also further encouragement for entrepreneurs and a desire to make Britain more business-friendly.
“We have made huge progress on jobs, investment, enterprise and infrastructure but the job is not yet complete,” he added. A “rebalancing” of the economy between the north and south, and between the services sector and manufacturing and technology, is also in his sights.
As well as reducing the deficit, Cameron also outlined plans to deal with continued “pockets” of high unemployment.
Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has been the subject of recent backlash from his own party, believes the current economic recovery is “joyless and payless” and he wants to help businesses “create jobs at decent wages, give opportunities to the next generation and tackle problems of inequality”.
Contained in his plan was a move to make sure UK holds onto its status as having one of the most competitive business tax regimes in the G7 and take on board the recommendations of John Armitt – who suggested an independent commission of infrastructure. Miliband would also like to devolve powers to the UK’s city regions on topics such as training and transport.
Miliband added that he would reform the banking system so that lending would be extended to businesses alongside a change to the rules on financial reporting and takeovers.
Nick Clegg, who has served as deputy prime minister in the coalition government, urged against a return to the “pendulum swing politics” that comes with a single party government.
“2015 will be about how we rewire the British economy, and make sure this nascent recovery is stable and drives down roots deep into the country that can’t be easily uprooted,” he said.
With a three-pronged attack, Clegg explained that the Liberal Democrats will eliminate the structural deficit, ensure the UK maintained its open economic stance and finance investment in Britain’s “creaking, Victorian infrastructure” through its new fiscal rules.
Clegg said: “If we can’t be open to our own neighbourhood, the world’s largest borderless single market of 450 million consumers, and if we can’t stand tall in Berlin, Paris and Brussels, how on earth are we going to stand tall in Tokyo, Washington and Beijing?”
The CBI’s Annual Conference also featured the launching of the organisation’s new “A better of Britain” report, an annual publication. The main features included “immediate action” on employee National Insurance, a new focus on productivity, skills for employment, higher performing schools and buffers for rainy days.
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