Six ways PM Boris Johnson can recalibrate his message to business

In normal times a new Prime Minister would now be able to indulge in a honeymoon period, but these are not normal times. The UK is in the midst of its greatest peacetime political crisis in modern history and time is of the essence.

Boris must urgently adjust his message to the business community, argues Kit Nicholl
Boris must urgently adjust his message to the business community, argues Kit Nicholl

When Johnson walks into Number 10, finding a solution to the Brexit impasse will rightly be at the top of his to-do list.

But with that, comes the need to rekindle his tumultuous relationship with business.

Johnson’s hardline attitude towards a no-deal Brexit on 31 October has gained him few friends in the business community.

Much less his comment last year when asked about corporate concerns over a hard Brexit: "Fuck Business", his response. To disavow himself of that pithy remark, which has followed him around for the past year, he must now make it his priority to re-calibrate his relationship with business.

Here are six ways the new Prime Minister can help his cause:

1. Theresa May’s first year was spent being unremittingly hostile towards business. Boris must be quick off the mark and send a strong signal that he’ll be the most pro-business PM of recent years. One of his first acts should be to create a business advisory board of FTSE chief executives to reassure the business community and investors.

2. Scrap 'silly season'. As Parliament goes into recess, and much of the country goes on holiday, August tends to be a quiet month in newsrooms. This should be seen as an opportunity by the new PM, to seize control of the news agenda and push his government's policy agenda with a clear tilt towards business.

3. The Government must be quick to leverage any announcements that show that business sentiment is alive and well. Any quick wins – new investments, job creations or inbound relocations – should be amplified.

4. Boris could do worse than to appoint a leading businessperson as part of his European negotiating team. Having a respected industry leader on side would send a strong message to Brussels and the business community.

5. It’s inescapable that the future of the European economy is tied to London with UK banks providing financing to thousands of EU businesses. They will want some certainty. There needs to be a fresh blitz from Number 10 in the foreign press, turning the screw on the EU. May lost control of the media narrative early on and was constantly on the backfoot. Johnson can’t make the same mistake.

6. Carve out a domestic agenda that shows it’s business as usual in the UK. Part of the problem with May's tenure was she didn't have a strong programme of social reform to keep Brexit off the front pages. She was captured and defined by Brexit.

For Boris to survive in the long term, everything he does must be seen through the prism of boosting the Tory's electoral chances.

Hold on tight - we may have a general election before the year is out.

Kit Nicholl an account manager at Trafalgar Strategy and a former political and business risk advisor at IHS Markit

Thumbnail credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

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