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CBI General Election Countdown Conference – CEO Rain Newton-Smith’s keynote speech in full
CBI General Election Countdown Conference – CEO Rain Newton-Smith’s keynote speech in full (20 November 2023).
Good morning, everyone and welcome. I can’t tell you how brilliant it is to see so many of you here with us. It’s going to be a great day.
I’m absolutely delighted that this morning, we are welcoming Jonathan Reynolds, Shadow Secretary of State for Business and Trade, and later this afternoon, the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, to set out their economic visions for the UK.
I know we as business leaders are very keen to hear from them in this critical week for the UK economy.
So, let’s get started. Just before I sit down with Kamal, I want to say a few words. That’s my prerogative as chief executive.
A NATION OF STORYTELLERS
One of the best things about working for the CBI – even in this most difficult of years for us – has always been the inspiration and resilience we gain from you, our members; business leaders across the UK, who have overcome adversity with tenacity and innovation.
Today I want to focus on something a university member once said to me, while talking about the UK’s incredible creative industries. I’ve never forgotten it, and it really resonates as we consider where our country goes next.
It’s that, “We, are a nation of storytellers”.
I say it honestly as the daughter of a writer and a philosopher. And I’m not just talking about William Shakespeare or Zadie Smith, or Dylan Thomas as the nation’s great storytellers when I do. At lunch later, and throughout this day, you’ll hear countless storytellers in full flow, who can talk of ideas that sparked innovations, creating businesses that have changed history and lives.
But it does feel to me lately, that the UK is a nation of storytellers who have lost their voice.
This isn’t surprising. It’s really hard to know what to say – in the midst of so much terrible global conflict and human tragedy, when the world feels so uncertain.
So much can feel out of our control.
On the global economy, over the next two years, the IMF forecasts a slowdown in global growth.
Here in the UK, persistent cost pressures and low growth continue to weigh us down.
But we can, and we will change this.
We can reignite UK growth and opportunity, and our pride on the international stage.
How? By taking action as you do every day.
By the choices that we make as leaders. And by the policy choices this country makes.
We can take action to lift business investment and skills. To help strengthen our public services. And to regain our leadership in green technologies, in health innovation and financial services.
The potential is there – and our analysis at the CBI backs this up – to tell a more positive UK story…
…To find our voice again.
That positivity is something that comes naturally to all of us as leaders.
FINDING OUR VOICE AGAIN
Because despite all the division of recent years, there is a consensus around the need to deliver sustainable growth that improves people’s lives today, and those of future generations.
So, my call today to the Conservatives, to Labour – and every party campaigning in next year’s critical General Election – is this:
…Don’t let the story of 2024, and the decade to come, be a story of low growth and lost opportunities. Work with us, each and every one of us as business leaders, to make this the decade of sustainable growth and opportunity. That strengthens our resilience as a nation to challenges now and in the future.
Yes, elections are a moment for contrast and comparison – but economies thrive on consensus.
So, let’s build momentum and confidence now by locking-in cross-party consensus where it already exists. By focusing on what unites us, not what divides us.
On tackling the economy’s productivity problem by boosting business investment through world-leading capital allowances.
On fixing the foundations of our infrastructure by reforming the planning system to deliver a green transition.
On building a more resilient economy for the future by incentivising R&D spending.
These are just some of the areas where both parties agree.
At the CBI, we’re ready to do our bit, drawing on your insights, to identify and campaign for practical, policy solutions that will help us secure that growth, create jobs and improve lives.
And we will continue to push for your Autumn Statement ideas, right up until the Chancellor stands up to speak on Wednesday.
LAUNCHING THE CBI BUSINESS MANIFESTO
Crucially next week, we’re launching the CBI’s Business Manifesto.
Co-created with you, it sets out a programme of action that the next UK government can take in their first 100 days, 100 weeks, and throughout the Parliamentary term.
And it’s this programme, reinforced by our work in the UK’s Nations and Regions − with our trade associations and members, that we will be campaigning hard on, next year, alongside each and every one of you.
This is the CBI’s mission − to raise your voice, the business voice, and ensure sustainable growth for the benefit of society.
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