Britain is "too lazy and too fat" with businessmen preferring "golf on a Friday afternoon" to trying to boost the country's prosperity, Liam Fox has said.My early business experiences were in oil companies, which are no paragons, but haven't been brought up to believe the world owes them a living. So it came as a shock, when I started doing business with the big heavy industrials in the north-east and north-west, to find them operating under the guiding principle: "why do a hard day's work when you can go lobbying instead?"
Seeing as it is now defunct - hardly a coincidence - I can finger ICI as the worst I encountered. Any time they could bend the ear of the man from the government they would be letting it be understood how many jobs were for the axe if this or the other little tax-break, blind-eye treatment or other featherbedding wasn't continued. Sometimes they'd even invent a new kind of 'special case' for favourable consideration. When the man from the HSE or the Alkali Inspectorate etc came calling (and by heaven, they had good enough reason to poke their noses in: what went up the stack of ICI's old Wilton power station was outrageous) they'd get the same story: a gentle cough and "5,000 jobs" would be mentioned; and he'd go away sadder and wiser.
My firm was new on the patch. When we had an environmental problem we quickly hatched a solution, but received a delegation from the local worthies. If folks were to start fixing problems, they said - well, where would it all end?
This is only part of the story, of course, because Britain has many business success-stories of which we may rightly be proud. But those that Fox is fingering need to shape up.
PS, I see Fraser Nelson has even more to say on the subject in the Speccie