General election 2015: What do entrepreneurs think about the election results?
Born, as we all are, onto a planet spinning at around 1,040 mph, it’s no surprise that we’re all seeking a little certainty in this world. This is true from straightest of laced civil servant to the most daring entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs may be better than most at tolerating uncertainty, but they’re rarely the free-wheeling adventurers often portrayed in the media. This is why the majority of entrepreneurs will be broadly content with last week’s election result. A hung Parliament or a wholly different Government would have resulted in more changes and more uncertainty. We know roughly what the next five years will look like because the Conservatives have been in power for the last five (albeit in Coalition with the now decimated Liberal Democrats).
Only geniuses and lunatics predicted a Conservative majority. England and Wales have turned blue (Scotland is another matter), with only a few clusters of red to break up the monotony. If the now discredited polling agencies had been correct, we would have had a hung Parliament and the party manifestos wouldn’t have been worth the servers they’re hosted on. As Nick Clegg knows only too well, many compromises are made in the process of forming a coalition. Instead, we can turn to the Conservative’s manifesto for an idea of what the next five years hold.
We know that the Tories have promised to keep corporation tax at 20%; cut red tape by £10 billion; treble the Start Up Loans programme; abolish employers’ National Insurance for apprentices under 25; and plough funding into fast-growing businesses through Innovate UK, the British Business Bank, and the network of catapult centres. To what degree these various policies offer good value for money to the Exchequer (and ultimately taxpayers) is up for debate, but you would be hard pressed to accuse the new Government of being unambitious in policies to support entrepreneurs. Chuka Umuna – Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary since 2011 and potentially Labour’s next leader – knows this only too well. If he becomes the Leader of the Opposition, expect a five years’ arms race between the two major parties in policies to woo the entrepreneurs’ vote.
Despite the pro-business stance of the Conservative party, there is, however, a rather large fly in the ointment. David Cameron has promised a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union (EU) by the end of 2017. We all know that big businesses are broadly pro-Europe, but small business owners and the entrepreneurs of Britain’s fastest-growing businesses are equally unconvinced that Brexit is in their or the country’s interest. Every business burdened by EU regulation wants some form of renegotiation, but leaving the Single Market remains a step too far for most.
On the one hand, Cameron may be able to use the threat of a Brexit to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU, improving the functioning of the trading block, then winning an easy victory in favour of staying in. On the other, he may fail to convince, lose the referendum and his job, severely damaging our economy under the burden of punishing non-tariff barriers. Don’t ask me which scenario will play out though: if this election result has taught me one thing, it’s that there are no safe bets in politics.