There is a nice little spat brewing between Tim Montgomerie and the Institute of Directors, after the former Times comment editor and founder of ConservativeHome ‘unloaded both barrels on Britain’s business trade bodies.’ According to Public Affairs News:
‘He argued that the CBI and IoD were losing the air war with consumer pressure groups, partly through presentation (he effectively ordered a Taliban-esk ban on pinstripes on telly) but principally by not explaining how an open free market brings societal benefits’.
What Montgomerie actually said was a little more nuanced, rather than the reported ‘Jihad’:
‘Friends of business need to change the way they’re organised. The CBI, FSB, IoD model – while often worthy – comes from another age in my opinion. Their spokesmen often appear self-serving. They are nearly always arguing for what is best for their members. Fair enough but they might be more likely to succeed in their aims if they were backing policies that would create jobs and higher incomes and exports.
‘Who are you most likely to listen to on TV and radio programmes: the pinstriped representative of the Roundtable of Amalgamated Corporates or the spokeswoman for the Campaign to End Youth Unemployment. Both could be arguing for the same free enterprise policies but one, I’m convinced, would be much more potent – especially with swing voters.’
Nonetheless the IoD has hit back:
‘There are many reasons why the market system is viewed with distrust, and making the pro-business case is vitally important. That’s why we slammed Barclays’ bonus structure because we stand up for shareholders. We’ve supported Uber because we believe in consumer choice. We support the shale revolution because we want lower energy costs and we’re relentless in our efforts to make the case for small business, open markets and genuine capitalism. Furthermore, we’ve done all this without a pinstriped suit in sight. The IoD dropped its dress code after 100 years, so if Tim comes by – maybe for one of our young entrepreneurs events – he’d probably notice a lot more t-shirts and jeans.’
It has been pointed out to Mr S that the broadside from Montgomerie comes on exactly the same day as the IoD hired Bell Pottinger’s James McLouglin to run their policy regarding the ‘new economy, disruptive technologies, entrepreneurship and innovation,’ stepping up that fight.
He’s not in a pinstripe suit on the website, though amusingly McLouglin is the son of Transport Secretary, Patrick. As the IoD is amongst the most vocal critics of HS2, this could get awkward.