Michael Portillo: government has done all it can for SMEs

Small businesses must rely on each other, not government, says Michael Portillo at Elite Business National Conference and Exhibition

Michael Portillo: government has done all it can for SMEs

SMEs are better off without government. That was the resounding message from Michael Portillo, who was speaking this afternoon at the Elite Business National Conference and Exhibition

The former Conservative MP and cabinet minister said there is a “fundamental mismatch between the government as a large organisation and SMEs as small ones.” Speaking as part of a session about business growth and the role of government, Portillo, now a broadcaster and media commentator, urged caution on small businesses looking to engage actively with the political establishment. “On the whole, businesses do much better to steer clear of government,” he added.

Portillo suggested that one of the worst things for a business is government interference in their particular sector – something which he says has the potential to backfire. “I think you pay a high price when your sector is recognised by the government,” he said. Industry leaders becoming political tsars was cited by Portillo as one dangerous symptom of business mingling with government.

Ultimately, Portillo said, SMEs are better off seeking support from other businesses. “Small businesses need to do more for themselves collectively. We may have reached the limit of what big government can do for small business.”

On another note, Portillo raised concerns about the UK’s place on the global stage when it comes manufacturing and – a matter close to his heart – trains. He claimed the country had a “cultural problem” with manufacturing; not enough young people have a vested interest in it as a career – a situation that the government can’t do that much to change, he said. 

However, Portillo stressed that the HS2 high speed rail network is essential if the UK is to keep up with its international rivals, as well as being vital to the economy as a whole. “The development of railway lines in the 1800s meant that Britain became the greatest trading and industrial nation in the world,” he said. ”Britain cannot sit back and watch the rest of the world invest in high-speed railway technology. The idea that we use the infrastructure from centuries ago is crazy – we need to update it.”  

Dara Jegede
Dara Jegede

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