I am headed to the Conservative party conference this morning. Before the critics leap into action I am not a conservative party member, nor indeed a member of any political party, and probably best described as apolitical. And no that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in anything. But that is another matter and not the subject of this post.
Had I the time and resources I would go to all of the UK party conferences; because Britain is Jersey’s single most important trading, political, social and cultural relationship.
Our business success in harvesting internationally footloose capital is well and truly hitched to the fortunes of the City. Jersey is a magnet for international capital that would not otherwise bear the complexity, bureaucracy and overhead incurred in investing directly in to Britain.
But just as Jersey benefits Britain the financial architecture of Britain is essential to Jersey’s ability to put capital to work, greatly enhanced through the City’s leading position as the global HQ for financial services.
Conference season is aimed at the voter, the party faithful and what will happen on the doorsteps in 2015. So what can we expect from the different parties with three conferences down and one to go.
The Lib Dems kicked off with promises of wealth redistribution, free school meals, and Nick Clegg committed to coalition (as opposed to the coalition) seeing his role as kingmaker at the next election.
UKIP didn’t really land any significant message due to the recurring problems with party discipline and the withdrawal of the whip from Godfrey Bloom. They have support but continue to act as a loose federation of individuals rather than a coherent political force.
Labour’s cheap energy promise, popular with voters but achieved through hitting the energy companies was a neat political manoeuvre, but signalled defeat on the core argument against the coalition’s management of the economy.
Not to be outdone the Conservatives have quickly brought forward their Help to Buy scheme enabling 95% mortgages to reappear. Chancellor Osborne will this morning talk about jobs created; the deficit brought under control, tough love for the long term unemployed, and helping people to buy their own homes.
It is to be hoped too the Chancellor has the courage to address what the other parties have not; and that is honesty about the fragility of this recovery, still under threat from rapidly growing sovereign debt in the UK and in Europe.
UKIP and the LIB Dems may influence the balance of power but the two key parties are still Labour and Conservative. Interestingly the populist move by Labour on energy has proven a winner with voters at least according to the pollsters. Labour were a point behind in the polls pre conference and are now 11 points ahead.
There is a danger that as the election moves into sight both major parties attack business as the soft option, bribing the voter with promises of price fixing, levies and windfall taxes. I fear we will see a proliferation of focus group fuelled policy proposals as we move into 2014.
With 53% of UK company shares now in the hands of overseas investors, short term populism could carry a heavy price given there are attractive investment opportunities in America and Asia.
The best means of achieving a sustained recovery is to bring certainty to business investment. The coalition corporation tax reductions have helped, but surprise moves on price fixing and tax will sap confidence, creating a corrosive climate of uncertainty.
Electoral bribes may have short term appeal but they are no substitute for conviction policies designed to address the long term interests of all sectors of society. In the end build and grow will always beat divide and rule.