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Entrepreneurs Panel

Steve Purdham
Laura Tenison
Julie Meyer
Brian Hay
Jeremy Roberts
Charlie Mullins
Richard O'Sullivan
Tony Caldeira
Debbie Pierce
David Pollock
Jennie Johnson
Michael Oliver

Sorry, guv

“Shoot the strikers,” declared Jeremy Clarkson.

“Sack Sir Mervyn King,” says Downtown in Business boss Frank McKenna!

Clarkson has since dropped down a gear to apologise for his intemperate outburst against the public sector workers who withdrew their labour in the November protest. We can put this down to a silly media spat best forgotten.

But McKenna, who runs business lobbying organisations in Lancashire, Liverpool and Manchester, is standing by his call for Sir Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, to be sacked. This is by far the more substantial issue as we face 2012 and the prospect of prolonged slump and major change in the structure of Europe.

McKenna’s case is that after the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, with its dramatically revised downward forecast on growth, SMEs need to be encouraged to invest and employ people. How on earth can that happen when Sir Mervyn is wandering around with his shroud warning that we are all doomed?

McKenna cited property company Bruntwood, whose investment plans last summer had been curbed as the Greek crisis broke.

Let us remind ourselves about the governor’s assessment of the potential effect on us of Euroland collapsing in 2012. With British banks having £500bn tied up in European institutions, Sir Mervyn is warning that the situation is spiralling out of control. It is an “extraordinarily serious and threatening crisis”.

Now let’s switch from the dealing rooms of London and the corridors of power in Brussels to a gathering of Manchester entrepreneurs meeting just after the Chancellor and the governor had spoken.

What are SMEs in the North West to do in 2012? Hide under the blanket or invest? There was a lot of support for the proposition that they’ve got to stop worrying about the big picture which they can do little about and concentrate on their own businesses which they can influence.

Tony Wilson of the automotive manufacturing company Klarius said now is a great time to hire because there are a lot of good people out their looking for work, they won’t cost the earth and will be grateful for a job.

The media also came in for some stick for joining in with Sir Mervyn’s shroud waving. My observation is that governors of the Bank of England do not have a reputation for hyping it up and if this is how King sees it, we’d better take note.

As far as the media is concerned, what do the critics expect? Europe is going through the most extraordinary economic convulsions. They have to report it.

What’s different is the relentless 24-hour news cycle. My advice is if you’ve got a good product or service, get out there and sell it and stop watching the TV screen.

It’s a fair bet that major changes are going to be proposed for the structure of the European Union in 2012.

So what should business be thinking about?

Joining the euro is completely off the agenda and so is leaving the EU. Let’s leave that fantasy to UKIP and its growing number of friends on the Tory backbenches.

What is possible is a renegotiation of our relationship with Europe if we are asked to approve any treaty changes.

The Prime Minister may see an opportunity here to pacify his party and please the voters by demanding changes to things like the working time directive and health and safety laws.

It won’t be easy as 26 other countries probably have a list of regulations they would like to tweak, but this mightbe a time to be thinking what Brussels-inspired rules you would like to see changed.

George Osborne’s statement has already changed the framework for the next election.

The Tories won’t be able to rely on tax cuts.

The message will be that the tough measures may not be popular but you know they are right. Labour will still suffer from the charge that they created this mess and the Lib Dems will be blown away.

Already there is outrage on the left of that party after chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said they would go into the election pledged to further cuts.

Oh, by the way, a Happy New Year!

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