By Paul Goodman
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…About whether to invest or perhaps to stay in Britain. Now imagine yourself peering at this morning's papers over the breakfast table. What do you see spread before you as you raise the marmalade spoon heavenwards?
- Nick Clegg proclaiming to the Daily Telegraph that he wants a tycoon tax.
- Danny Alexander declaring to the Independent that we'll take from the rich and give to the poor.
- Vince Cable in the Guardian launching "a scathing attack on Tories calling for more deregulation, saying they are out of touch with reality".
Now ask yourself: does all this make it more or less likely that you will stay in the country or invest in it? (And that the marmalade spoon will fall heavily to earth.) I appreciate that most entrepreneurs don't read the Guardian and this that is an unusual weekend, since most of them don't see a Liberal Democrat conference.
But mood can be as important as facts. And stories about new Liberal Democrat tax wheezes or the party's hostility to the Beechcroft proposals have scarcely been confined to this weekend. This anti-business atmosphere is like a gas – invisible but all-pervasive, getting in everywhere. No wonder Conservative Minister despair in private of getting a pro-enterprise message across.
The Coalition is what there is and does far more good than ill. But you can forget about it communicating a clear pro-business message between now and 2015 – as the continuing public budget negotiations confirm. Which doesn't make that businessman more likely to invest or stay, to put it mildly.