It would be nice to think that one or a tiny group of business leaders thought that George Osborne had done a cracking job on economic policy, told their pals, and another hundred or so spontaneously jumped in to offer support and put their names to letter which claimed:
"We believe the Conservative-led government has been good for business and has pursued policies which have supported investment and job creation."
They then go on to advise that voting other than Conservative would be a terrible thing and lead to economic chaos and collapse (I paraphrase this bit as I have not read the actual letter - it was in the Daily Telegraph, aka the Torygraph.
It is however more likely that this was a wheeze thought up by Conservative Central Office, which has the resources and time to concoct these media opportunities. (They out-spend Labour by three to one, the Liberal Democrats by umpteen to one and other parties by even more.) It would be interesting to know how many business leaders were actually contacted and what percentage signed. There are hints in today's paper that some of them with they hadn't.
By what I believe to be a genuine coincidence the Centre for Macroeconomics (CFM) published the results of its monthly survey on the same day. This month the question was:
"Do you agree that the austerity policies of the coalition government have had a positive effect on aggregate economic activity (employment and GDP) in the UK"
For detailed results see http://cfmsurvey.org/surveys/importance-elections-uk-economic-activity
- no-one at all "strongly agreed"
- a third , however "agreed"
- but another third "disagreed"
- and yet another third "strongly disagreed."
The Tories have no shame in repeating ad nauseum the alleged success of their "long term economic plan," and the claim goes unchallenged, even by the BBC. So, without embarrassment, though at the risk of seeming boring, here yet again is what I see as being closer to the truth:
- the "world" economic crash was sparked off in Wall Street, not Downing Street, through the reckless behaviour of the financial sector made possible by deregulation introduce and supported by the Tories in the UK;
- Gordon Brown was not unduly profligate, and saved, if not the world, at least the western banking system, by his prompt action through the G8;
- the UK's key debt/GDP ratio, though high, was not dangerously so, when the coalition took office:
- and the economy was already recovering when George Osborne became Chancellor;:
- this recovery was stifled by Osborne's policy of austerity, fancifully called "expansionary fiscal contraction;"
- the justification for "savage cuts" to reduce the government deficit was the claim, almost certainly false, that without prompt deficit reduction the UK was in danger of losing the confidence of the markets in the same manner as Greece;
- the economy then flat-lined for two years;
- things picked up again when this "Plan A" was quietly abandoned in 2012 and some Keynesian infrastructure expenditure was injected into the economy. This probably stimulated the present modest recovery;
- Osborne's two stated policy priorities were to retain our AAA rating and eliminate the deficit in one parliament. He has failed on both;
- the claim that the UK is now "walking tall" and "paying its way" is demonstrably false. The balance of payments deficit is at an historic high at nearly 6% of GDP, and productivity is shockingly low. These are the deficits that are really important.