Why did business leaders write a letter to the Telegraph?

In advance of the Government spending review this week, thirty five business leaders write an open letter published in the Daily Telegraph. Why?

At times, an event triggers curiosity. A letter to the Daily Telegraph today [Monday 18th October, 2010] is one such example. The letter received widespread attention even before it was published. It was trailed as being ‘on the eve of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review’.

The context

As UK subscribers will confirm, The Daily Telegraph is the medium of choice for supporters of mainstream Conservatism here. Stories are likely to offer support for Government policy.

Let’s assume that the timing of the letter is significant. Why should the business leaders give such public support? Many but not all are well-known supporters of the Government. It’s not difficult to generate possible explanations, most of them inter-related.

The conspiracy explanation

‘Big business is in cahoots with Cameron and Osborne to create a compliant work force permitting low wages and more wealth to the wealthy and powerful’

The ‘you scratch my back’ explanation

A version of the conspiracy theory in which business interests see benefits to a friendly relationship with the Government

The lobbying explanation

Private sector business leaders seek to add a ‘no compromise’ voice to help the Prime Minister and Chancellor overcome internal pressures to dilue their proposed plans.

The bottom-line explanation

The leaders are acting in the best interests of their shareholders in creating organisational profits

The Governance explanation

The more nuanced view that a Corporation acts with regards to ‘multiple bottom lines’ (An idea proposed a long time ago by Peter Drucker) and have reached a consensus in the interests of ‘stakeholders’.

There are almost certainly other explanations. It may even be possible that such ‘action direct’ seemed a good idea at the time that agreement was reached by these powerful industrial leaders. But in the absence of more reliable information, it is hard to feel that there is one convincing explanation. Except, perhaps, that a powerful tranche of private sector business approves broadly of the much-leaked plans for Government spending.

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