By Ian Fraser and Jason Allardyce
Published: The Sunday Times
Date: 2 May 2010
David Cameron has received a boost in Scotland ahead of the election from Sir David Murray, the Rangers owner, who said he believed the Conservatives offered the best hope for the country’s long term future. The founder and owner of Murray International Holdings, one of Scotland’s largest privately owned businesses, said he had greater confidence in Cameron than Gordon Brown to sort out Britain’s public finances.
While Murray, a lifelong unionist, said he believed Labour would offer a less painful short-term solution, the Tories would implement the public spending cuts necessary to bring the national debt under control in the long term.
Sir Tom Farmer, the founder of the Kwik-Fit empire, who helped to fund the SNP’s Scottish parliament election campaign in 2007, said it was time for Labour to be removed from office. He said he would be relaxed about either the Tories or the Lib Dems gaining power. The Conservatives plan to impose spending cuts this year, while Labour plans to postpone them until 2011, arguing that they could damage the fragile economic recovery. The Conservatives plan cuts of £63.7 billion, compared with Labour’s £50.8 billion and the Lib Dems’ £46.5 billion.
Murray, who has seen his fortune slump from £500m to £110m in the recession, said: “In the short term the Conservatives will be more ruthless about sorting out the national debt, which in the short term will not be good for business. But in the long term, it will be good for the country whereas Labour will continue to spend, so while if you’re being selfish Labour might be better for business, in the long term the Conservative party will be better for the country.”
Farmer said: “We need a change of government. It’s about time we had fresh faces, fresh thinking, and hopefully we’ll enter into an era where parliament realises it’s about working together for the good of the country.”
Other businessmen who have backed the Conservatives include Andrew Rosenfeld, the property developer, and Richard Caring, the restaurant and nightclub tycoon, who both lent large sums to Labour to help fund its 2005 election campaign. Sir Philip Green, the billionaire retailer whose businesses include Topshop and Arcadia, also announced last week that he supported the Tories.
Rosenfeld said Cameron was “the only person who has the real capability of governing”. He said he thought Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader “appears to be an extremely talented individual”, but that the party was ill-prepared for government. He also warned about the prospect of a hung parliament. “In order to make change you need to have a strong leader and you need to have a strong team and you need decisions to be made. It’s very hard to imagine that in a hung parliament that can be done,” he said.
The decision of Rosenfeld, 47, to back the Conservatives will come as a blow to Labour. He was repaid the £1m he lent Labour last year, but the party still owes £8.9m to other millionaires who helped bank-roll the last election, including £2m to Caring. The loans, which must be repaid in 2015, are interest-free until the end of July but the party will then need to repay £578,000 per year in interest alone. Senior Labour figures, including Brown, are personally liable for the debt.
Opposition politicians said Labour was facing bankruptcy and would not be able to pay for a second election if no party is able to form a government after this week’s vote. “Labour can barely fund one election campaign, never mind two in quick succession,” said Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, the Lib Dem Treasury spokesman.
This article was published on p1 of The Sunday Times Scotland on May 2nd, 2010. To read it on Times Online click here