Monday 30 April 2012

Getting down to business

Who else has noticed that the period of UK economic stagnation and decline since 2005 has coincided with the popularisation of the BBC's concept of "business" as a form of gladiatorial entertainment? Not to mention the distraction of endless digital business and general news channels from Bloomberg, CNN, CNBC and the BBC that give the concept of "short termism" a new perspective.

The received opinion from the media view has been that The Apprentice and Dragon's Den have somehow popularised the idea of business and made it sexy and accessible to the man and woman on the Clapham Omnibus. I beg to differ.

You mess with this lot at your peril. (Word to the wise:
count those fingers after handshake)
Dragon's Den is an amusing affront to business, where a colony of street-wise vultures masquerading as business angels are perched alongside piles of money that are phony as they are, gleefully waiting to swoop and exploit the starry-eyed, naive and desperate. The BBC (therm again) has provided the most wonderful profile building (and "sponsored car") opportunity for the publicity hungry Dragons, as well as made a couple of cock-ups, notably with their first token female, Rachel Elnough, founder of the embarrassingly accurately named "Red Letter Days".

One of the two transient "proper" venture capitalists, Doug Richards, baled out after series two having made a total of two investments. In 2008 his "Richard Report" for the Shadow Cabinet produced an excellent overview, and raised many questions that the Coalition is till yet to address:-

"Since the Thatcher reforms of the 1980s, the UK has been a good place to do business.  
It may not remain so. The World Bank ranks the UK sixth in its International Ease of Doing Business Index, a fall of one place from the previous year. The Index of Economic Freedom ranks the UK 127th  in the world in terms of freedom from Government.
It takes less than half the time to start a new business in France than it does to open the doors of a new enterprise in the UK. Nine other European countries rank higher than the UK. Yet, our 4.4m small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are the engine room of our economy, accounting for half of UK employment, 99.7 per cent of all enterprises and  half of UK turnover. Importantly, small businesses are the primary vehicles for innovation which leads to new jobs, new industries and new wealth for the nation. Understandably, therefore, SMEs have featured prominently in the economic strategies of every Government since 1979."

Having made his money during the Thatcher and Major years, arch opportunist and DD "Lifer" the very colourful (and very divorced, ~£300m??) Duncan Ballantyne overtly supported the Labour Party in the 2010 election: BBC tick in the box. He did not go to university, but aged 19 he did serve nine months in military detention for throwing an officer off a jetty. (Big respect!)

Other Dragons are sufficiently self-aware to realise that if they cannot bring themselves to overtly support the BBC's Alma Mater of the Labour Party, that they must try their best to appear a-political. Veteran of the last 6 series, Derborah Meaden has been tagged as a cynical Champagne Socialist but generally keeps her head down most of the time, only speaking on relevant business issues. She did not go to the BBC notion of "university" (ie Oxbridge or St Andrews) either- unless business studies at Brighton Tech now also counts..?

Hilary Devey made her bones with transport pallets
Divorced Peter Jones is the most colourful, and a genuinely larger than life (6'7") publicity whore, so I will not say any more here. He did not go to university.

Twice divorced Hilary Devey, the "new girl" went to Bolton Grammar School until 16, but did not go to university. She did however go on to amass ~£50m, and nail Personality of the Year in the International Freight Weekly Awards for 2010.

Cuddly (not divorced - with so many kids he couldn't afford one) Theo Paphitis comes over as one of the more down to earth Dragons, but he too is a shameless publicity hussey, and happily drives around in an ostentatious Maybach limo that he certainly didn't pay "full list" price for. I love that he got into trouble with with Guardian by making a practical observation on the challenges of modern employment laws (tagged for the same crime against feminism that Lord Sugar also committed). Paul Whitehouse's pastiche Theo Profiterole is perfectly observes, and once again, Paphitis did not go to university.

Conclusioin:  if you are divorced and did not go to university, you stand a far better than average chance of becoming obscenely rich by exploiting the gullibility of hard working entrepreneurs! Especially where public money cheerfully delivers them at your feet in BBC tumbrels.

Sunday 29 April 2012

Lord Sugar breaks rank - and Ken remains fired...

Lord Sugar's questioning of Ken Livingstone as London Mayor candidate is one of the first rays of light in Labour's hitherto solid brotherhood of tribal stupidity that used to mean a monkey with a red rosette would be elected in a safe Labour seat.

The Tories have tended to have a rather less regimented and more pragmatic approach to solidarity, and differences are far more frequent and turbulent in the ranks of the party - both in Westminster and the country. The already riven LibDems don't appear to have any coherent ideas, other than to cling to their rare power opportunity for dear life, and thus there are no proper views which even they could effectively divide.

The kiddie media of course eagerly jumps on any opportunity to be divisive without any analysis of the subject, or respect for people who put principles before dogma. So the BBC-Guardian cannot resist it's tribally socialist foundations, and move onto the grown-up debate that ought to be raging now around the intensely meritocratic, practical and realistic UKIP, who have overtaken the otherworldly and increasingly irrelevant LibDems in opinion polls.

It is a shame UKIP haven't changed the ever-so-slightly bonkers and blimpish name to take advantage of their 11% poll ratings and lure in even more Tories who are giving up on Gideon and Dave. What price PR now, Cleggy & Co? I know, we'll have an elected House of Lords! There's nothing else more urgent on the national agenda, is there?

Let's hope that Lord Sugar "considers his position" and decides it's time to move his considerable influence to the cross benches, and from there back one of the growing range of non-aligned common sense alternatives being proposed in the wake of the online media revolution, and the new opportunities this presents.

Now then, how about the first (and best) of the Apprentices - Tim Campbell - for Mayor in 2017?

No newts is good newts.