Wasisname - Labour's business balls-up

In the run up to the election, the Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls's gaffe on Newsnight seems unfortunate if not symbolic. Here is a key member of a party hoping to win election. So when he tries to establish his party's business policy credentials and show broad support from protagonists amongst Britain's entrepreneurs, he fails to name one. Or worse, he can only partly remember Wassiname who leads Labour's SME group: "Bill, er, er, the ex-CEO of EDS". Titters all round Westminster. Hurrumps and "told you so's" around UK boardrooms.

Whether you believe it is a seminal moment in an already too long election campaign, or a soon forgotten blip for Balls, isn't there another way to look at this?

Business often moans it is misunderstood. And yet business needs to shake itself out of self-pity. How many business leaders are household names? They are responsible for services and products that reach millions of people and yet the nearest they come to getting involved with the public is through occasional joint letters to the Times. If business believe public trust is an important element for the success of their companies, then why are they mostly invisible to the general populace. Do a vox pop in your local high street and ask passers by who is a prominent business leader with strong views. You will probably hear the name Branson. You might just light upon a Martin Sorrell, Nigel Wilson or a Stuart Rose. But after that, the best you'll probably get is '"Wasisname" from "that Tesco"', or sadly, even less likely, ' "Washername", that Superwoman with all the kids".

Much more serious than a politicians momentary memory lapse is that business has yet to find its proper place in the public consciousness. Given that so much of what business does touches the public or requires public consent or licence, whilst all the public can do is think of ""Wassisname" there is little chance of building significant levels of public trust.