A few weeks ago we blogged about a blind taste-test panel which The Telegraph asked us to join. Now we are able to reveal the results.
The overwhelming response from the panel was disappointment with the policies on offer. Across a wide spectrum from international trade to business support the parties were judged to have consistently failed to understand businesses perspective and needs. Each policy was marked out of five and in the final voting, The Conservatives (47/100) were a nose ahead of Labour (43/100) who had nudged ahead of The Lib Dems (40/100).
None of the parties scored more than 5/10 on their policies — it was a bit like giving the Gold Medal to someone running 100m in 25 seconds: there’s considerable room for improvement.
Tough on growth, tough on the causes of growth
“Where’s the detail. What will the tough choices be?”
The number one area which we all wanted to see tackled was the deficit. In 2010, the UK will spend £180bn more than it will raise in taxes. The policies presented were aimed at tackling just £5-10bn of that with tax increases on jobs (NI) and expenditure (VAT) — something which is painful for small businesses to bear.
We were frankly unimpressed by the lack of candour from all parties about what they were going to do other than borrow even more. As businesspeople, the mood was clear that we wouldn’t be allowed to get away with this kind of recklessness: we’d be out of business in a heartbeat.
The Tories scooped 53/100 in this area, with the incumbent Labour party given a punishing 37/100.
Mummy, can I help?
“If you expect us to drive growth, then take the handbrake off and get out of the way”
As any parent will know, there are some sorts of help that can be less helpful than no help at all. In the area of business support most people in the room had brushed up against BusinessLink and similar agencies. It was universally seen as a waste of space, and the best that could be hoped for was less interference, regulation and red tape.
The new-fangled interweb thing
“These are all trying to be cool and trendy. It’s ridiculous”
The harshest scorn was reserved for the parties views on e-commerce. Politicians are rarely thought of as early-adopters in technology, but 15 years after Amazon was launched, would they have caught up yet? Their policy statements were full of views on illegal downloads and long-term technology infrastructure, but not a single one mentioned the biggest hurdle to UK e-commerce over the past year: a reliable delivery system. The 2009 Royal Mail strikes, and the stranglehold they have on small parcel deliveries, were a big blow to e-commerce in the UK.
A further obvious hole is an area in which eBay is currently championing: international law. They are calling for a simplification of cross-border trading law and a rebalancing of power back to consumers away from the Big Brands who exert pressure to stop the legitimate sale of genuine bargain and second-hand products.
Participants on the panel included our Director David Brackin, together with Brad Aspess, owner of Rarewaves; Justine Roberts, CEO Mumsnet; Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation; Jamie Murray Wells, chief executive of Glasses Direct; Duncan Grant of the Entertainer Group and Jody Ford, senior director for sellers at eBay