Why we should all ignore that letter in the Telegraph

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).

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15 thoughts on “Why we should all ignore that letter in the Telegraph

  1. Nick

    those businesses are in the main not even credible – they only pay low wages and expect the public through tax credits to foot the top-up. any view they have should be dismissed.

  2. Joan Edington

    I reckon it would be very easy to get 100 nurses to sign a letter. It might not be one of support, mind.

  3. Steve Grant

    When will any politician admit that every one of these 100 companies is actually only doing well because they are getting more money from Government than they actually pay in tax. Every low wage these companies pay is at the expense of the tax payers who pay the workers in tax credits…It would seem to me if a company has to rely on low pay to get by then It’s already bankrupt…I wonder how many of these 100 companies would be in business if the tax credit handout was stopped?……

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      That is a really good point about tax credits.
      Trouble is, how many people would be homeless/destitute if tax credits were stopped?

      1. Karl

        Mike, I think that is the wrong question, the question should be: how many would be destitute if Tax Credits hadn’t have been introduced. My guess is not many.

        The reason why I say that it’s the wrong question is that I believe that putting it the way I have is a more balanced view and doesn’t automatically concede that Tax Credits were a good idea.

        On the face of it Tax Credits were a good way to raise the living standards by topping up the few that had very poor wages, but it made the wrong assumption that those companies who paid low wages did so because they couldn’t afford to pay more. In reality it has meant that, as Steve said above, many companies now rely on Tax Credits to keep their profits high – so what we all thought was a good socialist policy has turned into an almost fascistic policy that benefits businesses.

        So, how do we get ourselves out of that mess? I would suggest that, rather than stopping Tax Credits, we need to find ways to tax companies who rely on workers who need to claim those credits or perhaps some way of limiting the maximum pay differential in any organisation.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        I think it’s worth asking both questions.
        I don’t like tax credits. I think they were brought in from a position of weakness; wages were too low to support people and companies were determined not to do anything about it. So the government decided to foot the bill. Wrong answer.
        The answer should have been to say that those companies paying below the living wage while reaping huge profits needed to shape up quickly, and to back it up with action if necessary. In all honesty, the answer should have been to restore the status of trade unions and have a huge membership drive, so they could not only stand up for workers’ rights but also defend them adequately. This does not mean restoring them to the point of 1970s-style insanity. Trade unionists – like everyone else, it seems – get greedy with too much power and cause all sorts of problems.

  4. James Hunt

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

    Dangerous challenge. Out of 350,000+ nurses they would be able to find 100 idiots. I bet they’d even be able to find at least 100 UKIP supporters.

    1. Barry Davies

      Well as nursing is still mainly female orientated and women are more likely to vote tory than labour finding 100 would be easy, they would also find some who vote labour so 1200 of them would be easy you never know there would probably be at least 100 raving monster loonies although it is doubtful there would be 100 lib dums.

  5. Jim

    Oh dear oh dear the Tories have had to ask their mates to put a begging letter in the DAILY TELEGRAPH – I always imagined that millionaires and multi millionaires were not in the begging letter community. I mean how pathetic and self interest can you get. We are rich but we WANT YOU TO MAKE US EVEN RICHER. Now then boys and girls signatory to the letter, hands up who has a little tax avoidance scheme going fnor them – right everyone, who already had a 10% tax reduction on your personal income tax when the rest of us are paying for it – come on hands up oh my goodness everyone again, lets try this one then who wants a government that failed FAILED FAILED to reduce the countries debt – oh right nobody, who wants a government that borrowed an extra £200 Billion pounds to fund all their give aways and contracts handed out to the private sector. I hear your pain, less profits less contracts, less personal and corporate tax breaks my heart bleed for you. What right entitles you lot to tell lies about the fiscal state THE TORY GOVERNMENT has put this country spiraling into – oh dear not I hope the self interest of you making extra profits – excuse me while I vomit – what you sew you reap don’t expect the public to believe one word of your begging letter. WHAT HAS THE WORLD COME TO WHEN MILLIONAIRES SEND OUT A BEGGING LETTER TO THE PUBLIC TO MAKE THEM MORE MILLIONS. ROLFPMSL. Please feel free to copy/paste anywhere JD

  6. Jen

    Barry and James tut-tut! Ignorance and deflection from the main point! Stick to the article and facts – it is more productive in rallying support for change than encouraging negative stereotypes!

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