By Dr. Christopher A. Johnson
It is often said that ‘a week in politics is a rather long time’. Fast forward, the former Home Secretary, Mrs Theresa Mary May, is the new Conservative Party Leader and Britain’s 75th Prime Minister (the second woman to achieve such eminent status in the country). She pledged to govern the country, by emphasising; “A vision of a country that works not for the privileged few, but that works for every one of us because we’re going to give people more control over their lives and that’s how, together, we will build a better Britain. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36768148
With her endurable stewardship at the Home Office and a brief stint as Minister responsible for Women and Equality, Mrs May will need to call on her dual public and private sector calculus, to place the minority ethnic dividend at the epicentre of UK macro-economic policy. Since changes to the equalities legislation in the first half of this century, ethnic monitoring has almost disappeared from the radar in terms of business and industry, except for a few areas in public life. And yet, the contribution of ethnic firms and women-owned businesses combined, exceeds over £30 billion, with the former input to the treasury estimated at £20 billion per annum (Diversity Magazine 9 June 2016).
Despite the incredible achievements of these ‘captains of industry’ for generations, the recent closure of enterprise development agencies and the diminution of Business Links across the English Regions, have left thousands of existing and new minority entrepreneurs, without consistent and reliable technical assistance and enterprise support. The hundreds of ‘arms-length’ agencies set up to offer support to small and medium-enterprises (SMEs), is not ‘seamlessly’ working as was first mooted by state officials. The clamour by a leading business leader for a renewed ‘SME Task Force’ (‘The Phoenix’ July 2016) is therefore opportune. With more women and young people of ethnic background setting up commercial firms and social enterprises, the necessity for additional support measures, is not altogether unreasonable.
Mrs May’s depiction as a ‘moral and ethical’ politician, rather than a definitive ‘ideologue’, is an attribute that is needed to reinforce the ‘fairness doctrine’ Britain (so loudly) proclaims rather testily. With the post-EU Referendum uncertainty, the time is propitious for the review of a rationally inclusive SME Policy that gives credence to the contribution of ethnic firms to the national coffers. Certainly, this policy can be part of the new Premier’s legacy of ‘ethical integrity’ which can be likened unto her renowned endowment of moral sensitivity.
Hundreds of ethnic businesses are located in diverse communities that experience incidences of economic deprivation and social exclusion. Much of these dislocations are due in part, to the velocity of public expenditure reduction especially, to essential services, over the past 6 years. In spite of this situation, business owners are contributing to jobs, wealth creation, social cohesion, scientific and technological advances and generally, helping to reduce material poverty (including the collapse of low-income economies), in the process.
Ethically, Madame Prime Minister May, will need to find a delicate balance between recognising the valuable input of ‘Big Business’ to large scale investments and the invaluable contribution of minority firms to the economy as a whole. The following actions by the May Administration will therefore go a far way to find a ‘common ground’ in the current ‘ethical dilemma’ on ethnic firms:-
• Undertake a comprehensive review of the organisation and performance of minority firms, as a first step towards recognising their contribution to the British economy.
• Re-integrate minority firms within wider macro-economic policy with a responsible ‘Czar’ leading on this.
• Offer greater prominence to women and young people’s entrepreneurial flair and their influence on local economies.
• Encourage government departments and agencies to simply procurement and related tender procedures, to facilitate minority firms’ access to commissioned work especially in their locale.
• Instruct the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) to work with established minority entrepreneurs, to promote a culture of ‘Ambassadorial Enterprise’ in emerging [Commonwealth] democracies – Africa, the Caribbean, South Asia and the Pacific group of countries – particularly where material poverty tends to inhibit orderly development and growth spurts.
Undoubtedly, Mrs May’s governance will seek to redefine Napoleon Bonaparte’s famous assertion of Britain being ‘a nation of shopkeepers’. The new PM’s strategic trajectory will be perceived as more than an empty slogan, but one which bears the hallmark of modernising the ‘ethnic business realm’ across the British Isles.
Dr. Christopher Johnson is an award-winning author, publisher and business management consultant. Dr. Johnson can be contacted at email@example.com.