Boris Johnson has poached Sky TV chief operating officer Andrew Griffith to be his interlocutor between Downing Street and the business community.
Griffith, COO of the pay-TV giant, will be the bridgehead between business and the Government with the TV executive leading a beefed-up business team out of Downing Street.
Notoriously, Johnson was overheard to say “fuck business” when he was Foreign Secretary and being confronted with business leaders’ alarm over Brexit. But in recent weeks he has been on a charm offensive in an effort to persuade corporate leaders that he will offer a pro-business, tax-cutting agenda.
Andrew Griffith is a former Conservative candidate who lent his £9.5m Westminster townhouse to the Johnson campaign during the race for the party leadership.
Allan Leighton, chairman of Co-operative Group and former Sky board member, told the Financial Times that Griffith would be “good news for the business community”.
Small business reaction
Reacting to Johnson’s appointment as Prime Minister, business associations and small business suppliers gave their wish lists for the incoming PM.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) met with Johnson and his team last week to discuss priorities for the new administration.
Among the measures the FSB would like to see is modernising business rates by extending the two-year 33pc rates discount benefiting small retailers with rateable values up to £51,000 to manufacturers.
FSB chairman Mike Cherry said: “Brexit has been absorbing Government bandwidth for years now, leaving domestic challenges unaddressed. Chief among these is a broken business rates system, spiralling employment costs and derisory broadband and phone connectivity.”
Edwin Morgan, interim director general of the Institute of Directors, said: “The new Prime Minister will take the reins at crunch-time for businesses up and down the country. It’s crucial that the incoming administration recognises that this is a daunting time for many firms, and is prepared to back them.”
The IoD has called for the Government to provide financial support for SMEs to prepare for and adjust for Brexit through a Brexit planning voucher scheme offering grants for smaller firms access specialist professional and/or legal help. It also wants business investment incentivised by improving EIS and SEIS reliefs and creating a new Enhanced Capital Allowance for productivity-enhancing spending.
Gary Turner, co-founder and managing director of online accounting platform Xero, said: “Our new PM needs to recognise what small businesses contribute to our society before he embarks on a ‘come what may’ Brexit deal. For the UK to prosper, he needs to end the suffocation of SMEs … the livelihoods of small business owners are at stake and this is not being considered in the ongoing distraction of Brexit.”
Steven Stewart, director of Valitor, called for business rates to be cut, closely followed by tackling late payments. The Government, said Stewart, needs to “simply listen and take advice from the people on the ground doing the hard graft”.
Adam Marshall, director-general at the British Chambers of Commerce, said the message to Johnson from around the UK was simple: “The time for campaigning is over – and we need you to get down to business. Companies need to know, in concrete terms, what your government will do to avoid a messy, disorderly Brexit on the 31st of October.”