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Speaking to Bright Blue, the independent think tank for liberal conservatism, the Chief Secretary to HM Treasury, the Rt Hon John Glen MP, has said businesses need to focus on providing high-quality products and services rather than getting involved in politics and cultural debate.

Bright Blue interviewed the Chief Secretary to HM Treasury as part of the new edition of its Centre Write magazine, released today, discussing corporate culture, economic growth and the future of business. 

In the interview, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury spoke about the role of business in politics:

“I think the mainstream majority of this country want businesses to provide value for money and quality services and goods that they can rely on, and probably want them to keep out of politics.

“But I think where we’ve got to now is that we’ve almost got a checklist of things that a business has to say and do in order to be deemed to be socially and ethically on the right side of the line. And I’m not sure about this. We’ve seen what can happen in recent months.  Think of that US beer brand, where consumers reacted rather differently than was anticipated.

“I’m uncomfortable, instinctively, to see big businesses appropriating the views of their customers to make a political point. If they want to get into politics, then stand for election.”

He discussed Conservative economic policy:

“I’m nervous of situations where Conservative Governments intervene too much in the market, and I’m anxious that we should move to a position as quickly as we can when taxes are falling. We can only do that when we also respect the primary rule, which is sound money.”

He then critiqued the Labour Party’s economic plans: 

“Being in government means you cannot hide from the OBR [Office for Budget Responsibility]. You can’t hide from the commentators. And whilst I respect the Shadow Treasurer’s team to be taken seriously by the electorate, and by those who commentate leading up to an election, you can’t just syphon off one tranche of public spending as not debt. It is debt – it has to be paid for.

“As Economic Secretary, I was responsible for the debt management office – the debt management office has to issue gilts. And the coupon needs to be paid. And it doesn’t matter how you badge it, you can’t hide from these realities.”

He then gave his thoughts on the upcoming general election: 

“The conservative family is a broad one. But as we get towards election, we need to exercise discipline and restraint in all parts of the Party, because we need to demonstrate unity of purpose. This is especially true as we continue to deal with some of the most difficult challenges of our time.

“If you look over the elections that I’ve been involved with since 1997, we are at our best when we’re united. And I’m convinced that the vast majority of my colleagues recognise that. But, when you’ve been in power for 13 years  frustrations exist. If you go through what we’ve gone through over the last three years, you can understand why some people feel frustrated at times.”

In his article for Centre Write, Stephen Kinnock MP, Shadow Minister for Immigration, condemned the Conservative Government’s lack of industrial strategy, saying:

“Most national governments now have begun to understand that a strong domestic manufacturing base is absolutely essential to building the resilience and sovereign independence that a country requires to survive in this new ‘age of authoritarianism’.

“Alarmingly for the people of Britain, Rishi Sunak is just about the only leader of any Western country who is failing to understand the importance of this quest for growth and resilience. An industrial strategy is nowhere to be seen. The Prime Minister and his Chancellor seem trapped in a bygone era, blind to the reality of the world around them, with Sunak openly speaking out against the idea of his subsidising British industry, having already scrubbed the words ‘industrial strategy’ out of the Business department.

“We need action and we need it now. Britain needs its steel, and currently one thing is abundantly clear; Labour is the only party on the pitch when it comes to promising a serious industrial strategy.” 

In his article for Centre Write, John Redwood MP, the former Conservative Party leadership contender, outlines why markets should lead levelling up, not the state: 

“To level up a region, the state needs to have low rates of tax on income and business. It needs to offer good properties and land to build on to attract richer people who are prepared to invest in the area. It should help to find industrial and commercial space and grant development permission to those who want to build a business. It needs to offer good communications and utilities, as businesses need to be able to get the raw materials in and the finished goods out. 

“Businesses also require plenty of power, broadband and water for their activities. They also need to be able to recruit willing employees to train and promote as they grow. You do not make an area rich by nationalising the main facilities and by taxing business and entrepreneurs away. Nor does it help to lay down what you can and cannot do in such detail that people would rather live and work somewhere with more liberty.

This edition of Bright Blue’s Centre Write magazine also includes contributions from James Ball, Author of Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World, James Cowling, Founder of Next Gen Tories and John Penrose MP, the UK’s former Anti-Corruption Champion and many more.