Robert Halfon explains all about Boris Johnson's 'f*** business' outburst
Apparently the foreign secretary does not hate businesses - just their lobbyists.
Boris Johnson faced an angry backlash at the weekend over a four-letter anti-business outburst aimed at his Brexit critics.
The Conservatives are supposed to be the party of business. But the foreign secretary appeared to think otherwise when asked at a Foreign Office reception about employers’ fears that leaving the European Union could damage British jobs.
While talking to Belgium’s EU envoy Rudolf Huygelen, Johnson is said to have replied "fuck business".
The remark is just the latest salvo in an escalating war between Tory Brexiteers and British business leaders. And more moderate Tories are appalled by it, with one minister telling ITV’s Robert Peston: "I never thought I would see a Conservative Government at war with business - it's too depressing for words.”
So has the Conservative party officially ceased to be the party of business?
Asked on the BBC’s Daily Politics whether that was the case, Tory MP Robert Halfon was emphatic:
"No… the Conservative party is the real business party but it’s not just about big business, it’s supporting small business too, we’re the party that cut corporation tax to create jobs and investment."
So why did Johnson tell business to get lost? Alas the best the former minister could come up with was that the foreign secretary does not hate businesses. He just hates lobbyists who work for businesses.
"From what I understand about the Boris comments, that was directed at lobbyists rather than business itself," said Halfon.
Needless to say that explanation has not gone down well with lobbyists.
"I doubt that Robert Halfon truly believes that the foreign secretary did indeed mean to refer to lobbyists. But if he did, that would mean that one of the most senior people in the government said ‘f*** lobbyists’ – in itself an insulting and outrageous sentiment." said Francis Ingham, boss of trade body the PRCA.
He added: "Lobbying plays a vital role in our democracy... While lobbyists may make a convenient group to hide behind, this assertion is probably - to coin a phrase - an inverted pyramid of piffle."