Business leaders castigate Boris Johnson for Tory conference speech: ‘a man without a plan’

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Curious business leaders have lined up to accuse Boris Johnson of dragging Britain into a “cost of living disaster” without a credible plan to deal with the mounting crises in the economy.

Even former staunch Tories such as Brexiteer Wetherspoon pub boss Tim Martin joined in the attack, saying the PM was leading a government “moving from one unpredictable initiative to another” with the least ” commercial sense “or” guiding philosophy “of any administration for 40 years.

The conservative peer called on the government to allow companies to hire more foreign workers to alleviate labor shortages that have led to chaos at gas stations, restaurant closures and empty shelf warnings in Xmas. The stalemate worsened yesterday when Mr Johnson dismissed the concerns in his speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. Instead, he insisted that companies can no longer “use immigration as an excuse not to invest in the people, skills and equipment, facilities and machinery they need.” to do their job “.

But Paul Drechsler, chairman of the London First group of companies, which represents around 200 of the capital’s biggest employers, hit back by telling The Standard: don’t have a plan. Burying your head in the sand at the scale of dislocation and pain that consumers and small businesses will have to endure as a result, risks turning a crisis into a cost-of-living disaster.

“The government should ease its own points-based immigration system to allow the economy to acquire the skills it needs so that the recovery can continue.” Another sign of differences of opinion at the top of the Conservative Party, Andy Street, the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands and former boss of John Lewis, has supported Lord Wolfson’s call for some short-term flexibility as there is a long-term adjustment. “I agree with that, it’s common sense,” he told ITV’s Peston Show.

The stalemate comes amid Cabinet divisions over the level of immigration that should be allowed to deal with the short-term problems facing Britain. Ardent free-market scholars, including Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, have pushed companies to tackle the crises by recruiting more UK-based workers, a solution some bosses say will not solve immediate difficulties. in part because of the difficulties in finding new employees for key areas and the length of time it takes to train them.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak stressed in his speech at the Conservative rally in Manchester that he is a ‘pragmatist’ and that business leaders will look to him to come up with solutions that tackle current problems, as well as to seek longer-term reforms for the economy.

The unprecedented attacks by private sector leaders came on another day of darkening economic storm clouds as winter approached. Analysts have warned that a seven-fold increase in UK wholesale gas prices could push household bills up to £ 500 next April when the price cap is calculated by regulator Ofgem.

Large industrial energy users have also warned of rising prices or even shortages of basic necessities ranging from toilet paper to bricks if the government does not step in.

Andrew Large, managing director of the Confederation of Paper Industries, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that the industry needed a “temporary winter cost containment measure to try to keep those costs down so that these industries very, very important to British society can continue to function. Critics of the Prime Minister – whose speech has been called “empty and economically illiterate” by the free market Adam Smith Institute – have come from a wide range industrial sectors.

Icelandic supermarket general manager Richard Walker said “harsh rhetoric is just not helpful” to businesses. Asked about his views on the tone and position of the Prime Minister, Mr Walker told the Today program: “I don’t think this is particularly helpful. I mean companies face so many different crises that have all gotten worse at once. So pointing the finger at us and picking us as scarecrows for issues like the truck driver shortage – which is multifaceted and systemic – just isn’t helpful. “

Mr Walker said it was “inevitable” that there would be price increases as companies face multiple “cost pressures”.

Restaurateur Sam Harrison, who runs Sam’s Riverside in Hammersmith, criticized: “The fallacious optimism of our Prime Minister, which is so far removed from what happens in the real world of business.

Andrew Mawson, Managing Director of the consultancy firm Advance Workplace Associates, said: “Companies have spent the past two years adjusting to massive changes in the way we work and our relationships with our largest business partners, and are now looking for government support, not lecture on how bad we have it. If Boris is to deliver the highly skilled, well-paid economy he offers, he has to work with business to make it happen. “

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi denied that the Conservatives blamed business. When asked on Sky News if the Tories were “on a warpath with business,” he replied, “Well, I don’t agree with you.”

A government spokesperson said: “The government is taking action to address business concerns about global issues related to rising wholesale gas prices and supply chain challenges. We are working with the industry to identify and resolve current issues and are monitoring the situation closely so that we can mitigate future pinch points.

“The UK has the fastest growth rate in the G7, wages are rising and unemployment is falling. Our growth plan clearly sets out the opportunities we will seize across the UK to drive economic growth, create jobs and support UK industry as we move closer and rebuild better after the pandemic. “


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Edward L. Robinett

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