Amstrad chief charges Labour with not doing its homework, and offering no route out of recession.
Letter to The Times, 19th March 1992
From Mr Alan Sugar.
Sir, I have noted with disgust the comments of a certain Mr Gordon Brown who has accused me of doing well out of the recession after reading the letter published in The Times from 40 top industrialists.
I do not know who Mr Gordon Brown is. Excuse my ignorance, but I don't. Whoever he is is (shadow trade and industry secretary) he has not done his homework properly. The man doesn't know what he's talking about. How he has the audacity to say that Amstrad, or Alan Sugar, has flourished in recession is a complete mystery to me.
Amstrad made its first loss ever this year. It is not a secret that our share price has tumbled to about one seventh of what it was. The value of my shares has collapsed from £500m to to £100m more or less overnight. The salary I have been taking in the company is pretty meagre - about £170,000. It's nowhere near the million-pound bracket. So this talk that I have prospered in the midst of recession is total nonsense.
I personally have made a lot of money in my time, despite coming from a working class background in the East End. The money hasn't been handed down from family to family or by the old boys' act. I was able to start from scratch.
When taxation was 98p in the pound under the last Labour government I would have been spending my time doing what I am doing now - creating wealth and producing employment. I would have been better off going to Bermuda, the Virgin Islands or Timbuktu.
But I don't want to go to Bermuda to avoid tax and lie on the beach. I don't like paying tax, but I agree that the 40 per cent I pay at the moment is reasonable and fair when you balance the fact that the country has got to run itself somehow, and I like living in England.
So that's why I'm here. That's why I'm still spearheading my company and that's why I'm still employing people, innovating and surviving in a very difficult market.
Our letter to The Times talked of the importance of the enterprise culture for the future prosperity of Britain. The thing that frightens me the most about a Labour government is that it suppresses enterprise.
For instance, Labour's talk about investment is a bit of a joke. The capital allowances for machinery, plant and equipment it urges are not going to encourage people to rush out tomorrow and start equipping a factory or making products.
If you've got good design and innovative products you don't need any help, thank you very much indeed. You get on and make it. Amstrad is a classic example. We built our own factories in Shoeburyness in Essex without a penny grant on an 11-acre site. From there, in 1980, we fought off the Japanese to turn ourselves into the market leader in audio equipment. I didn't need help from anybody at that stage because we had invented good merchandise and good products.
The same goes for satellite dishes today. We rule the satellite dish market in this country and half of Europe and the dishes are made in Birmingham. I didn't need any investment or any help to do it. All I needed was the government to keep out of the way. More than 1m dishes have been sold to date in this country alone. When we placed the orders in the factory the satellite hadn't even been launched. It's that sort of entrepreneurial spirit the Conservatives believe in and Labour doesn't understand.
The reason Labour flourished many years ago was the "them and us" situation that prevailed in England. There were the rich and there were the poor. At that stage maybe I would have sympathised with the need for a Labour government.
But that's all been changed now. Look around. Yes, there are the very poor and more should be, done for them. But almost everybody's got a microwave oven, a car and a colour television - maybe more than one colour television in their homes. Let's be honest with each other. "Them and us" doesn't exist any more, as I have demonstrated.
I have been able to come from the working class; achieve what I set out to achieve and not be suppressed by anybody. Likewise, in the stock market today there are bright young men with a Cockney accent doing deals and buying and selling shares. It's not just the Heskett-Smythes mob that are doing it. Anybody can do it.
The government has made mistakes; nobody's perfect. To be sure, somebody took his eye off the ball. Now the belt has been tightened and there have been casualties. But it is not just the poor unemployed factory worker from the Midlands who is being thrown out of work. So are the merchant bankers, the stockbrokers and the estate agents.
Labour offers no sort of route out of recession. It's out of date and - as Brown's remark shows - it hasn't done its homework.
Alan Sugar, chairman, Amstrad. Brentwood house, 165 King's Road, Brentwood, Essex
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