The extent to which small and micro businesses have been misunderstood and ignored by politicians in the past is enormous, however in the last few weeks there has been some early and tentative indications that things may be changing. At long last the two largest political parties have finally woken up to the fact that small and micro businesses are the most significant group in the nation and if they continue to be ignored, the political parties will continue to seen as irrelevant by large numbers of people. The statistics should have alerted these decision makers many years ago. 99.8% of all businesses in the UK are micro, Small or Medium sized Enterprises (SME). Of these the Government has historically focused on the Medium Sized Businesses which employ 50-249 people and have a turnover of £10m-£50m because they are much easier to engage with due to the size and limited numbers. However the medium sized businesses represent around 0.6% of all businesses and so whilst there are 3 times as many medium size businesses as large businesses which get even more consideration, between the two of them they represent less than 1% of the nations enterprises. The real issue is that most employees work for small and micro businesses and if this section of the economy was listened to and supported the potential for our economy to grow substantially would be achieved. What many small and micro enterprises do is value their employees, whereas many of the medium and large businesses see their employees as mere statistics and in some cases they try to extract the most they can from their workers at the lowest costs, in a manner that leaves the workers feeling mistreated.
So at the start of January, Chris Grayling chose to use his announcement regarding the contract they have offered to Seaborne Freight which is currently a micro business, as a way of sticking two fingers up at the Labour Party. On Tuesday the 8th January in Parliament he claimed “The Government are told time and again that we should contract and work with small business, and help small businesses to develop, but when we do so, we get nothing but a wall of criticism from Opposition Members.”
A few days later his colleague Dominic Raab made a speech on Monday 14th January that was seen by some people as an attempt to apply for leadership of the party. The speech was entitled ‘The UK after Brexit: An economic vision for small businesses, workers and consumers’
Then last week, Bill Esterson the Shadow Minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy met with a group of people involved in an enterprise support network in Parliament as shown above. This image and the description of what the meeting was about can be found here provided by David Taylor.
Finally and perhaps in a more cynical manner last Thursday evening Greg Clark, the Secretary for State for BEIS took part in a meeting in the constituency where my business is based specifically focused on small businesses. The reason this was cynical is that the MP who organised it, did so under the banner of her political party and as a result of holding this event, she turned down the opportunity to meet with the local Chamber of Commerce a week earlier which would have been on neutral ground.
So the big question is what will happen this month, given that to create a habit, people need to do the same thing several times over a relatively short period of time. Let us hope that these four politicians along with some of their other colleagues will carry on blinking until eventually they are able to see clearly that for the good of our economy and workers and in due course their political careers, treating micro and small businesses with the sort of respect they have previously treated large businesses or trade unions will be a good step in the right direction.