Business vote

Ken Clarke, shadow business secretary, is an angry man and thinks British politics is being trivialised.

“We are in danger of treating this election as if it is just some TV celebrity talent contest.

The most urgent question in this campaign is, quite simply, which party is capable of tackling public spending and getting a grip on the deficit.”

 

As part of the FT’s expert election panel, our three contributors will occasionally be giving their thoughts on the big election news story of the day. Today, we asked for their thoughts on efficiency savings and the war on cuts. Get to know our panelists in their video introduction

Jim Pickard

Unless you read the financial pages you may not be aware of Corporate Britain’s latest eye-catching payout: a £92m remuneration package for Bert Becht (not to be confused with Bertold Brecht). He is the chief executive of Reckitt Beneckiser, which makes products such as Vanish and Dettol.

To be fair, Becht has set up a charitable foundation to which he has given more than £100m. Even so; isn’t there an issue with this kind of payout just months after the credit crunch?

Vince Cable told me last night this was “extraordinary” and “unbelievable” and showed the often painful differential between the highest and lowest-paid workers. 

Jim Pickard

It was all just a dream.

You may have thought that the Tories were the party of fiscal probity. You may have thought that they were the ones who were going to get a grip on Britain’s desperate public finances. They were the ones who would prevent the loss of the UK’s AAA credit rating and keep interest rates low. Etc, etc, etc. 

Jim Pickard

When David Cameron yesterday said there would be no “swingeing cuts” in the first year of a Tory government was it proof that he is in retreat over the issue? 

Jim Pickard

Nick Clegg attracted some mocking laughter from MPs – including Gordon Brown – during PMQs today for daring to question the Cadbury’s takeover. How come the government couldn’t stop RBS, which is state-owned, part-funding the Kraft takeover, he asked?

Last month, Lord Mandelson declared that the government would mount a huge opposition to the Kraft takeover of Cadbury’s, so why does the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is owned by this government, now want to lend vast amounts of our money to Kraft to fund that takeover? 

Jim Pickard

A curious email was sent out this afternoon, purporting to be from Peter Slowe, chair of the Labour Finance and Industry Group. In it, Dr Slowe apparently called for Harriet Harman to quit. Yes, really.

UPDATE: Slowe has said it’s nothing to do with him – instead he says it was a mistaken publicity attempt by his PR advisers. 

Jim Pickard

The Infrastructure Planning Commission is much more important than it sounds. 

Jim Pickard

Expectations are for a Gordon Brown “recovery” speech on Tuesday when he faces the TUC Conference in Liverpool.

For all the (slightly) better economic/financial data out there, there is still an obvious dichotomy that Britain faces. Do you define the downturn by GDP figures (the formal definition of recession beging two quarters of contraction) or on unemployment figures? 

Jim Pickard

We revealed a year ago that the Reuben brothers – two property tycoons who made their money in Russian aluminium – had given £186,000 to the Tories, mostly through obscure corporate entities.

Now they have given £5,000 to Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, according to the register of MPs’ interests. 

Jim Pickard

A group called Tescopoly (set up to defy the grocery giant) points out:

“We are very interested in these comments seeing as previously Cameron has spoken of the need to make trade fairer between supermarkets and farmers* and publicly supported calls for a watchdog.  

Jim Pickard

Lord Myners gives short thrift today to Tory plans to kneecap the Financial Services Authority and transfer many of its powers to the Bank of England.