Is “open for business” fit for purpose?

One peculiarity of British political culture that I find most striking, coming to it from the outside, is the occasional coining of technocratically flavoured verbal taunts, and the incessant efforts to shoehorn as many of the old chestnuts as possible into whatever attack is currently being made.

Witness the reaction of energy companies to Ed Miliband’s proposal to freeze energy prices for 20 months (which, on the merits, sounds like a pretty awful idea, managing to be offensive both to oil tycoons and environmentalists):

The companies have reacted with fury to his plans, saying he is risking power blackouts and sending a message that Britain is not open for business.

(More quotes used the same slogan to attack proposals to fund the reduction in business energy rates by raising corporate income tax.) The phrase gets associated with Margaret Thatcher, though it’s been used intensively both by the current government, and by Tony Blair, who has been well paid to travel around the world attesting to other countries being “open for business”: Palestine, Sierra Leone, Thailand.

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