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By Claire West

‘Half the civil service should be sacked’– is reportedly what Digby Jones said after the former CBI boss stepped down from his government post as Trade Minister. I wonder whether the same will be paraphrased ‘Half the civil service should be fired’ by Sir Alan Sugar when he eventually leaves Whitehall and I wonder whether it will be the same half.


The star of the BBC's The Apprentice was handed his new role as "enterprise tsar" in the latest Cabinet reshuffle but according to a poll carried out by ComRes for The Independent; ‘More than four-fifths (81 per cent) of business figures believe that the appointment was designed to help his (Gordon Brown’s) public standing after a disastrous showing at the European and local elections’.


Fresh Business Thinking asked small to medium sized business (SME) owners what they think. Is Sir Alan the right man for the job?


From, all businesses questioned, 76% were critical and agreed that Sir Alan’s appointment was merely a stunt. One respondent said: “Gimmick - Gordon Brown seeking to ride on the back of Alan Sugar’s new celebrity status. Not the way to run a country on gesture politics. Brown’s doubling real spending on public services without demanding substantial improvement in productivity and results has left finances in a parlous state and failed to achieve value for money for those who have to work to sustain the economy and pay taxes to fund public spending.”


Gill Hunt, Managing Director at Skillsfair proclaimed: “Worse than a stunt, it's an insult to businesses and demonstrates either that Govt don't understand business or that they think we're all so stupid that we don't either.”


But was it really just a stunt, or more like a strategically wise move? Ian Maskell from Business & IT Solutions thinks “it is a clever move, not a stunt. Sugar will have enough time to come up with some good proposals, probably some of them quite radical, which Brown can adopt knowing he will not have time to implement them, even if he could get the civil service to do so (which he couldn't since it will undoubtedly affect a lot of their jobs), and which would get lost in the mists of time if by some chance Labour did get re-elected. It is actually a clever political move. I just find it difficult to believe that Sugar has fallen for it - maybe he hopes the Tories might implement some when they get in before they get caught up by the laissez faire of the government machine.”


The survey showed a worrying lack of faith in the Government. Another respondent believed that: “Sir Alan's appointment merely demonstrates the desperation of a failed government that has run out of steam.  TV celebrities now count for more than an elected MP.”


Some respondents were more strongly opinionated. 18% of the critical respondents went as far as to say that Sir Alan should be fired immediately.


In conclusion, it seems pretty clear, that the majority of people believe Sir Alan’s appointment as Enterprise Tsar was done with the intension to give support to Gordon Brown’s recently undermined position.




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