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Joey Essex, David Cameron and the Biggest Threat to UK Business

16/04/2015 09:30 BST | Updated 15/06/2015 10:59 BST

With only three weeks to go it is now almost impossible to avoid discussion of the UK General Election. Politicians, pundits and psephologists are everywhere, vying for our attention as they read the runes endlessly and often tediously. The smorgasbord of views, comments and opinions is overwhelming. But from this miasma some inescapable truths are emerging.

The first is that the election campaign is not (so far) really moving the dial in the polls. Each blip up or down is greeted breathlessly, but the reality is that the two main parties are neck and neck, the SNP are doing well in Scotland, the LibDems are doing badly but will probably do better than the worst case, and the smaller parties are scrapping around with varying degrees of professionalism. But despite all the heat and noise nothing really is changing.

If you want to know why I'd suggest consulting the oracle that is Joey Essex. In his cameo appearance on the John Pienaar show on BBC 5 Live this week he revealed a staggering lack of knowledge of the political process and of the electoral positions of the political parties. I don't blame Joey for this: the parties have not for many years engaged with many key audiences, not least the young. This time around, with their carping, back-biting campaigns fuelled by envy and fear, they are actively repelling voters. Turnout threatens to plumb new depths come 7 May.

The second inescapable truth is that business confidence is being shaken by the uncertainty associated with this impossibly close dog fight. Or maybe it isn't being shaken at all . The truth is that this is complicated: in some sectors the 'risk' of a Labour victory, or of a prolonged period of uncertainty, does seem to be holding back spending, particularly in non-core areas. In others, as the rash of mega-deals has shown, the election is a very minor concern indeed.

The third truth is closely linked with the second. One thing all the surveys of business confidence appear to show, and all the pundits seem to agree on, is that (at least about one thing) Tony Blair is right: a period of uncertainty in the run up to an EU referendum is a far bigger risk to business confidence than the Election itself. It is, by the way, utterly baffling to me that the Conservatives, who want to be seen as the champions of economic growth, would put it all at risk with this ill-conceived and chancy policy rather than showing some balls and standing up to those who are viscerally opposed to living in the modern world.

This something I've commented on several times before. This is nerve-jangling stuff: a referendum will mean that our political parties will take responsibility for informing and persuading voters of the economic, social and political benefits of EU membership. Given their woeful performance in the run up to the Scottish referendum, and given the understandable lack of public interest in and focus on politics exemplified by Joey Essex this week, I have little confidence they will be up to the job. This is the real danger lurking after 7 May.