Tory-backed business letter flops
An attempt backed by the Tories to persuade a group of business leaders to sign a letter warning about the alleged dangers to the UK of a hung parliament has collapsed.
Building on the success of last month's business leaders' letter which opposed Labour's planned increase in National Insurance, the Tories were helping to circulate a letter claiming that the UK's economic prospects would be damaged by a lack of decisive leadership by a new government - and argued that a hung parliament could prevent such decisive leadership.
I understand that among those approached to sign the letter were Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, Sir Stuart Rose, chairman of Marks & Spencer, Charles Dunstone, chief executive of Carphone Warehouse, and Sir Philip Green, owner of Arcadia.
"The letter was not explicitly backing any party, though it was co-ordinated by the Tories" said one of those who was asked to sign. "I was approached by Andrew Feldman for them".
I am told that a number of business leaders refused to sign and others subsequently withdrew their names.
"It looks as though the letter isn't now happening" said the boss of a well-known company. "Without us, perhaps Simon Cowell (who gave a positive assessment of David Cameron in today's Sun) will swing it for the Tories".
A Tory spokesman said that the letter was not his party's initiative although he said it did provide support.
Update 16:00: Sir Philip Green has just telephoned me to put on the record that he and Charles Dunstone personally think that a hung Parliament would be bad for the UK.
They both want to see a decisive election result.
"We want a clear decision on who the new leader is" said Sir Philip. "That leader has to show vision and then have the ability to execute that vision. I can't see how that can happen if there's a hung parliament. Let's be under no illusion: hung parliaments are a bad idea".
So, I suppose, that's what Sir Philip would have said, had the letter I referred to in my earlier note been published.
Update 16.31: My note on the hung-parliament letter that never was seems to have stirred up something of a hornet's nest.
I've now been contacted by Sir Martin Sorrell who says that he won't sign group letters in general, because they are capable of being misunderstood.
But he too would prefer a majority victory in tomorrow's election rather than a hung parliament - though he won't say which party he would like to see forming the government.
He is fearful that any coalition government will find it difficult to make the tough decisions necessary for cutting the UK's record public-sector deficit.
I should point out, for the sake of balance, that by no means everyone in the City and business agrees with Sir Martin, Sir Philip or Mr Dunstone on the perils of a hung Parliament.
And it is not insignificant that neither sterling nor the price of gilts have collapsed since the opinion polls started indicating that a hung Parliament is the most probable outcome to the election.