Asian business leaders, recruited mainly from Eastern Eye’s Asian Rich List and Power lists, have explained why they signed a letter to The Daily Telegraph last week backing the return of the Conservative party under David Cameron.
One entrepreneur did not want to be identified but was acid in his condemnation of Ed Miliband, who beat his elder brother David to the Labour Party leadership with trade union support: “A man who did not do right by his brother is hardly likely to do right by the country.”
It may be that in the Asian community, family loyalty – and especially a younger brother’s unquestioning devotion to an older brother – counts for a lot more than in the rest of the population.
But in public, most stuck to economic arguments to set out the reasons for signing the letter to the daily, which began: “We run some of the leading businesses in the UK. We believe this Conservative-led government has been good for business and has pursued policies which have supported investment and job creation.”
The 100-plus captains of industry applauded the government’s decision to lower corporation tax to 20 per cent, which demonstrated “the UK is open for business”. “The result is that Britain grew faster than any other major economy last year and businesses like ours have created over 1.85 million new jobs,” the signatories added.
“We believe a change in course will threaten jobs and deter investment. This would send a negative message about Britain and put the recovery at risk.”
The signatories included hoteliers Surinder Arora and Jasminder Singh, Cobra Beer owner Lord Karan Bilimoria (though as a peer he himself cannot vote), electronics man Rakesh Sharma, “Basmati Baron” Moni Varma, and Thembalath Ramachandran, CEO and managing director of Bristol Laboratories.
Zameer Choudrey, Bestway group chief executive (18th on the Asian Rich List with £415m), had already told EE for his Asian Rich List profile: “I think the British economy has improved over the last 12 months: inflation is at a record low; commodity prices are lower; employment is up; GDP is up, so things are moving in the right direction.”
His is the judgement of a man with a £3.4 billion turnover and a global workforce of 33,600.
After the publication of the letter, a number of entrepreneurs spoke to EE. Hotelier Surinder Arora, who is developing big projects at Ascot and at the O2 area, is 22nd on the Asian Rich List with £360m.
“I’m not too involved with politics or politicians, but as someone running a business, I can say what the current government has done in the most difficult time in our history has been incredible,” said Arora. “You can’t please 100 per cent of the people but you don’t want to go backwards. The government has done a sterling job.”
Moni Varma (70th, with £85m), said that he had once backed New Labour but the party had left Britain “deep in debt”.
“There was a period of belt tightening under the Conservatives. It is like running a small business. There are good times and bad. The Tories are pro-business and that benefits all,” he said.
Varma said he would not personally benefit under the Tories. “If you take money out of your business, you pay tax. If you have the money, you reinvest. If you start a new factory, that creates 100 to 200 new jobs.”
Varma added: “Most businesses and industries should come to the UK – it’s the most tax-friendly country in the world. We don’t want to go backwards with Labour.”
Speaking as an independent Crossbench peer, Lord Karan Bilimoria said he was critical of several of the coalition government’s policies, such as on immigration and higher education.
However, “I think the government has created an environment which, on the whole, has benefited business, with our economy growing at one of the fastest rates amongst developed economies, high employment, low unemployment, low interest rates and low inflation.”
Lord Bilimoria continued: “On the other hand, I am worried about the policies and lack of policies friendly to business emanating from the Labour party and the Labour leader, who most of us in the business community do not feel has an understanding and has not shown, until only recently, that business is a priority to him.
“Furthermore, the prospect of a Labour government, propped up by the SNP, would be terrifying, with increased public spending ruining the recovery we have now and the ability to reduce the deficit and debt.”
To be sure, there are Asian businesses which supported Labour in the past but so far few have publicly stated they want a Labour government elected with Miliband as prime minister.