The winner is climate change

  • Robert Peston
  • 5 Mar 07, 08:43 AM

When I started this blog in January, I listed seven issues that I thought were likely to feature fairly regularly and asked what you thought of them. In shorthand, they were:

a) whether the power of the big supermarket groups needed to be reined in;
b) whether there was sufficient competition between high street banks;
c) whether the climate for small business was dangerously inclement;
d) what role employers should have in providing pensions;
e) whether the increasing gap between the super-wealthy and the rest matters;
f) whether the rise of private equity is a cause for concern; and
g) whether we should be worried that so many British businesses are being bought by overseas interests.

What now intrigues me is whether you would agree with the views of opinion formers on which of these questions are the most important and which the least. A ranking has been provided to me by the polling organisation, Opinion Leader Research.

Every month, it seeks the views of decision-makers and opinion formers from politics, government, the City, business, media, the voluntary sector, think tanks and academia. In its latest survey, it asked about those seven issues and a further one, viz “What role business should have in attempts to reduce CO2 emissions and tackle climate change?”

Here’s the pecking order, from most important to least, with the mean score in the right column.

• climate change 7.63
• pensions 7.44
• retail 7.26
• small business 6.63
• banks 6.24
• private equity 6.15
• wealth gap 6.00
• foreign owner 5.10

As you can see, climate change wins by a clear margin, which we’ve seen manifested in all those corporate announcements of green initiatives.

However I am struck that overseas ownership of British businesses resonates so little. That said, breaking down the scores by occupation of those surveyed, executives in the City (where overseas ownership is disproportionately high) view cross-border takeovers as of far greater concern than anyone else does, which is intriguing.

Other conspicuous splits between the different members of the Opinion Leader panel are that business leaders think that conditions for small businesses are hugely important, while media representatives can barely stifle a yawn.

Also the only group seriously exercised by the widening wealth gap are those in think tanks and the voluntary sector. Politicians are relatively unbothered by it, in spite of the recent attempt by Peter Hain, a candidate to be Labour’s deputy leader, to increase its salience (see my recent blog, “Hooray for the super-rich?”).

Other fascinating results are that those in politics and government are least interested in pensions and are laggards in appreciating the growing power of private equity. As for the media, it rates the role of Tesco and the big banks higher than anyone else does – and I’m uncertain whether this reflects the concerns of the wider population or is an unhealthy media obsession.

Presumably you’ll let me know.

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