Advertisement

Are the Tories now the anti-business party?

Are Theresa May's Tories anti-business? Credit: PA

In the wake of the Foreign Secretary’s alleged “f*** business” and the Health Secretary’s denigration of Airbus’s warnings about damage from a hard Brexit as “completely inappropriate”, some in the Conservative Party are worried that the Tories are at war with businesses.

One minister told me: "I never thought I would see a Conservative Government at war with business - it's too depressing for words.”

Is that really what’s going on?

Well, the increase in popularity of the Tory Party among a growing proportion of the Brexit-voting white working class is consistent with Boris Johnson’s 1970s-style Bennite sloganising (there’s no opponent of business like a public-school class traitor).

Boris Johnson allegedly said 'f*** business' when asked about fears over Brexit. Credit: PA

But there is a more respectable interpretation of what’s going on.

This is what the multi-millionaire, ex-entrepreneur Hunt - who has since June 23, 2016, crossed the choppy waters between Remain and Leave camps - has told those who know him are his motives for becoming a Brexiter.

In a dig at what he sees as the small “c” conservatism of the executives who run Airbus and other multinationals based in the UK, his view is that “smart business people embrace change, however much they may regret a particular turn of events”.

He became converted to Brexit because he became convinced that the private sector should “get real about the future and make the most of it” and the UK “will not be successful as a country unless we stop blaming people/governments/foreigners for our problems and stand on our own two feet”.

Jeremy Hunt is calling for businesses to embrace change. Credit: PA

His rallying cry for a so-called “clean” Brexit tilts the odds against the Cabinet - at its punitively historic Chequers meeting in 10 days - agreeing to follow EU business rules to the extent that would give multinationals the kind of low-friction trading arrangements with the EU they crave.

It also tilts the odds in favour of Hunt reinforcing his leadership credentials among the heavily Leave-weighted Tory membership.

But Hunt apparently insists - cross his heart, hope to see a Corbyn victory - that he’s not positioning himself as a candidate to succeed Theresa May.

In fact he is something of a Cabinet rarity, I am told - someone who thinks May will be PM for a while yet and is therefore doing more to shore her up than trip her up.