The Liberal Democrats are now the natural party for business

On Thursday, in the City of London, Vince Cable launched the Liberal Democrat Business and Entrepreneurs Network.   This network is in response to the growing interest of business leaders in joining up with the Liberal Democrats.  

The overwhelming issue the new members raise is Brexit.

Whilst the Government had a mandate from the electorate to leave the EU they adopted anultra-Brexit approach apparently driven by local Tory constituencies, not by economic logic.   That alarms many business people, but it also alarms young people whose future is being stolen.

The average age of a Conservative Party member is reported as 71 with the younger members deserting and we believe the Liberal Democrats now with 100,000 members is the larger party.

The only established national party campaigning for an exit from Brexit is the Liberal Democrats and the party’s demand for a referendum on the final terms is attractive now that the British public can see clearly that they will not get what they were promised in the referendumcampaign.

There is a global economic upturn and the eurozone is recovering fast.  Yet, the recent UK budget showed how the British economy is slowing and the consequent adverse effects on the public sector deficit.     Britain limps along in the relegation zone, a low growth economy in a sea of prosperity.

The Conservatives have betrayed business with their wealthdestroying approach to Brexit.   The Labour Party scare business with their anti-capitalism rhetoric.

In contrast the values of modern businesses areLiberal values.   Openness, toleranceand collaboration are the values of modern businessand also the values of liberalism.

Business in Britain is very orientated to European markets and many of us work in other European cities.   For those of us working in Dublin we have watched in horror the evolving disaster of the Brexit negotiations.  

British politicians flew in and out of Dublin talking warm words and describing yet-to-be-invented technological solutions for the border without giving any details whatsoever.  They assumed that with warm words and a patronising hand resting on a shoulder they could get away with it.

Ireland is one of the best friends Britain will ever have and in terms of trade, British exports to Ireland are equivalent to the total of exports to Canada, Australia and Japan combined.

All the government of Ireland ever asked for wasa better answer for a problem inflicted on them by the UK government.   

The UK government’s handling of this issue has been amateurish, bad for our international relationships, bad for community relationships, and bad for business.

Traditionally business people supported the Conservatives because it was viewed as a safe choice but that demonstrably is not the case anymore.   Business leaders and entrepreneurs are increasingly backing the Liberal Democrats because the party is now the natural party for business.

* Richard Pym is cChair of Allied Irish Banks plc and Co-Chair and Founder Member of Liberal Democrats Business and Entrepreneurs Network

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Nom de Plume 8th Dec '17 - 7:08pm

    Well, business is also part of the “liberal elite”. Welcome to the club.

  • Perhaps big business can start paying decent wages to its workers. I will not be holding my breath.

  • OnceALibDem 9th Dec '17 - 12:12am

    “Business leaders are increasingly keen to join the Liberal Democrats because of the party’s clear stance on Brexit.”

    Be better if this was because they believed in Liberalism. But increasingly that is less something the party cares about. See this by David Boyle for a bit more evidence of that –

    “the centre ground needs to shift from the home for those committed to the world’s existing arrangements to the home of those prepared to think for themselves. “

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Dec '17 - 12:25am


    I cannot criticise you , your area of expertise or commentary herein.

    But as a creative industries professional in the prime of where I would like to be at, as an entrepeneur, on a small scale , with creative projects, with real commercial potential, your sector , this group and Sir Vince and the party are in danger of talking to ourselves and not understanding the real world, hence why this party is in trouble.

    Read my article on here under my name in the search , very recent, called, Politics is personal. You can judge for yourself whether it is correct that having nearly wrecked the economy, then got largesse , “universal like the sun, ” to quote Shakespeare, from HM government, that banks and banking rely only on a credit score based on home ownership or such, to lend, or invest in business or individual plans.

    I cannot get any bank , including the one I have an agreed overdraft at hideous interest rates, my own of twenty five years since I started university, to look at me.

    It is now the era of radical desire for change. There is no room for complacency. What your group should do , and Sir Vince, identify how banks and big business , can unify society, and join with and invest i other sectors, think outside of your own bubble, realise you are unpopular for a reason, and get with the need to include those who feel cast out or outcasts.

    And can your group please , instead of being a couple of thousand a head at a dinner, put some money into a scheme to be enrepeneurial , for and by , those of us who are in more imaginative fields but cannot thrive on imaginationon it’s own !

  • nvelope2003 9th Dec '17 - 12:44pm

    OnceALibDem: We already have two establishment parties. It is because the Liberal Democrats have sought to join them, instead of remaining the party for those who wish to think for themselves, that it no longer attracts much interest, except possibly for those who oppose Brexit which is of course the current principal establishment cause. We should leave it to the Labour Party to defend the existing order which is the past and offer some radical solutions for the problems of the present and the future. Without that there will be no future for modern Liberalism. This seems to be the reverse of what you and so many others here seem to want.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Dec '17 - 1:27pm


    Agree , yet have respect for any view that is decent, though, and oncealibdem, is on the whole correct in this comment and alludes to David Boyle , a fine thinker.

    We must do as I suggest in my view, offer radical solutions based on experience and individual situation, rather than no solution or those based on an out of touch attitude. Liberal values are not status quo, yet on left and right of the party too often they are.

  • Peter Hirst 9th Dec '17 - 3:47pm

    I agree we are now viewed more favourably by the business community. We need to capitalise on that and offer it a basket of policies that they will want to endorse. The present situation is an excellent opportunity to become the business community’s friend as long as we can use it.

  • Richard O'Neill 9th Dec '17 - 5:17pm

    This may well be increasingly true given the antics of Corbyn (although it is interesting how business leaders are already putting out feelers towards him. Money follows power).

    However, it is questionable how useful it is to be seen to be in league with big business. Osborne clearly thought it was an irrefutable endorsement during the Referendum. If anything it seemed to drive people the other way.

    I’m afraid big companies just aren’t very popular. Low wages and a threat to relocate jobs because of Brexit are hardly going to endear you to the public.

  • Nom de Plume 9th Dec '17 - 6:09pm

    @Richard O’Neill

    “big business” – the bogeyman.

    We will see what happens with Brexit, but it could be that these big companies are large manufacturing of high paying financial services companies. Most (all?) countries want foreign investment. The public needs to be careful what it wishes for.

  • The average age of a Conservative Party member is reported as 71 with the younger members deserting. At 100,000 members, the Liberal Democrats is almost certainly the larger party.

    Tim Bales’ statistics would appear to show otherwise:

    Mean age Conservatives 57
    Mean age Labour 53
    Mean age Liberal Democrats 52

  • This is a welcome contribution from Richard Pym, as is the Launch of the Liberal Democrat Business and Entrepreneurs Network.
    Economic Policy needs to be developed on the basis of enhancing the capacity of business organisations of all sizes, large and small, to flourish.
    Corporate Social Responsibility (the actions of a firm to benefit society beyond the requirements of the law and the direct interests of the firm) rests on a foundation of profitability, as argued by A. B. Carroll in. “Managing Ethically with Global Stakeholders: A present and future challenge” (Academy of Management Executive May 2004, p. 116.).
    Innovation is closely linked with entrepreneural activity and is the driver of the productivity enhancements that deliver improved standards of living.
    It is welcome news that “Business leaders and entrepreneurs are increasingly backing the Liberal Democrats because the party is now the natural party for business.”
    The CBI, FSB and IOD are all influential opinion formers; and increasingly investors and employees are looking to CEO’s to take a position on societal issues – whether it be Brexit, Global warming, air and sea pollution, aggressive tax avoidance practices or child labour practices in the third world.

  • Richard O'Neill 10th Dec '17 - 12:47am

    @nom de plume

    I don’t disagree with you, but ultimately any second Referendum/general election is going to put power into the hands of an electorate much of whom regard big companies as hostile to them and Britain in general. Waving around endorsements from top business people is just a vote loser.

  • Peter Martin 11th Dec '17 - 12:44pm

    Is the eurozone really “recovering fast”? Since 2015 the ECB has been engaged in a program of QE which, contrary to popular opinion, isn’t quite the same as “money printing “. It has had a beneficial effect, though. It has greatly reduced interest rates. Our QE program has been responsible for our very low rates too.

    Lower interest rates allow for more private borrowing which leads to more spending. For a while. So things are looking a bit better. But it won’t last. More private borrowing means more private debt which will soon slow down the EZ economy.

    German politicians dont much like the idea of QE in any case and are seeking to wind it down as soon as they can. The fundamental problem of a lack of fiscal equalisation in the EZ remains unresolved.

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