Why entrepreneurs backed the Tories

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The Conservative Party won the General Election and all across social networks and my Facebook page there has been much fury, anger and consternation, plus a few amusing montages. I personally expected “the Tories would edge it” for some time, as I could just never believe that Ed Miliband would become PM. Although in the closing days before May 7, I’ll admit the opinion polls were persuading me otherwise too.

There will be much dissection of the result over the week and months ahead. But before you convince yourself that all Tory voters are fools, evil or both, it might be worth considering plausible reasons why people vote Conservative.

I’ll offer some insight from the world of business journalism. Most business owners and entrepreneurs favoured the Tories and they usually do. This is not because they are especially rich (some are, but many are not) it’s more a case of language, mindset and philosophy.

The Labour party, under Miliband and Balls, spoke a different language which just jarred with many business owners and the self-employed. Running your own business is a risky affair and the idea of a government feeling it can butt it nose into things via tax or regulation is not welcome.

Business owners also feel that they are doing a social good by creating jobs, wealth, taxes, better products and services, or even at the very least that they provide for themselves and their families. When politicians roll-out the cliché that small and medium sized businesses are the “lifeblood of the economy”, they are, in fact, being quite accurate. There are 5.2m small businesses in the UK which provide over 14m jobs and about half of all goods and services.

But the vast majority of SMEs are small and, in fact, about three quarters are micro-businesses (1-2 employees). Many of the UK’s economic problems could be solved if more of these small businesses grew into larger ones. Medium-sized companies typically generate more high value jobs, exports, invest in R&D and, of course, provide more revenues to the exchequer.

Business growth is exactly what Cameron and Osborne are praying for, whether it can be delivered remains to be seen. But there is little doubt the chancellor’s plan for a private sector-led recovery chimed well with these businesses and its Small Business Manifesto ticked a lot of boxes.

For more on this, here’s my feature in The Guardian on what a Conservative government means to small businesses.


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