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No, it isn’t an ‘April Fool’, but it’s still a transparent piece of campaigning by people who shouldn’t be doing it. Why should business leader get to campaign politically when charities are banned?*

Many of the 100+ ‘business leaders’ who signed the letter supporting the Conservative Party with a claim that the Tories are good for business (we’ll come back to that) have close – and This Writer means very close – ties to that organisation already. Here’s how one commentator on Twitter thought the Telegraph headline should have looked:

150401whatitshouldhavesaid1

The letter was factually inaccurate. If the Tories have been good for business, for example, productivity will have increased – right? Let’s have a look at what’s been happening, according to the Office of National Statistics:

150401growthwithoutproductivity

And what about the zero-hours contracts they defend in that letter? David Cameron wants you to believe that they’re only two per cent of the new jobs created. In fact:

150401zerohours

Now let’s look at some of the signatories. People on Twitter have been checking them out, so we see this:

150401telegraphletterbusinesspeople

We also see this:

150401telegraphlettersignatoriesloyalties

What we don’t see is an ounce of integrity or believability.

George Osborne said an intervention like this was “unprecedented” in modern election politics. He was lying. Letters like this are ten-a-penny at election time, and the social media are already abuzz, trying to work out what ‘rewards’ the signatories will get from the Tories for adding their names to this grubby little screed.

In the meantime, you are advised to read this Left Foot Forward article, which provides interesting further details about the signatories, as follows:

“Pay details of selected FTSE 100 CEOs who signed the letter, and are compelled to disclose their pay in their companies’ annual reports, are as follows:

  • Prudential CEO Tidjane Thiam was paid £11.8 million in 2014, up from a mere £8.7 million in 2013. In 2010, he struggled by on just £5.3 million, so people might not find it surprising that he thinks things have got better under the Coalition
  • Andy Harrison, the CEO of Whitbread, which owns the Costa Coffee chain amongst other restaurant brands, was paid £6.3 million, over 400 times as much as his average employee. Again, CEO pay at Whitbread has increased from just £2.6 million in 2010
  • George Weston, the chief executive of Primark owners Associated British Foods got a £5 million incentive payment last year, on top of a salary of around £1 million plus various other bonuses. His total pay added up to over £7 million, roughly 500 times as much as his average employee. Primark has been criticised for its refusal to pay ordinary workers the living wage
  • Despite falling oil prices, BP could still afford to pay Bob Dudley around £9.4 million last year, up from about £8.8 million in 2013, though Aidan Heavey of Tullow Oil wasn’t so lucky – his company’s plummeting share price reduced his pay to just £2.4 million, compared to £2.8 million the previous year.
  • In his final full year at Diageo, Paul Walsh was paid £15.6 million. Mr Walsh has previously argued that higher taxes on the rich make it harder for the UK to attract and retain top talent. Cynics might wonder if there was anyone in particular he had in mind.

“These pay packages do not necessarily invalidate the opinions of the CEOs (though we should be wary of crediting them with the wisdom of Solomon) or have any bearing on whether they are right or wrong about Labour and Tory economic policies.

“But such vulgar sums of money do make it easier for critics to argue that the letter’s authors are a bunch of self-serving racketeers concerned only with preserving an economic system that facilitates their own enrichment, rather than public-spirited entrepreneurs who genuinely want what’s best for the country.”

That’s pretty much what This Writer said in Vox Political‘s first article about this.

Let’s end with another message from the social media – a tweet by Frankie Boyle, which says – simply:

“I’d like to see the Tories try to get 100 nurses to sign a letter.”

*Due to the ‘Gagging’ Act (the Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Act).

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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