Hunt tells Dyson to ‘stand for election’ after fiery meeting

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The UK chancellor has told one of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs that he should run for parliament if he believed he could do a better job than the government, according to people familiar with the matter.

Jeremy Hunt met the British inventor Sir James Dyson at Number 11 Downing Street last Wednesday for what insiders said was a short encounter. The meeting was set up to discuss research and development tax relief.

Dyson has been a vocal critic on a range of topics, as a proponent of Brexit and a strong opponent of remote working, and has been scathing of the UK government, which he says has ignored entrepreneurship.

One person familiar with the exchange said: “It was an awful meeting, to the extent that Hunt told Dyson: ‘If you think you could do a better job, why don’t you just stand for election?’.” Another person described the meeting as “fiery”.

However, a Treasury insider disputed that characterisation, describing the encounter as a “good, robust discussion”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been at pains to restore relations with industry following the leadership of former prime minister Boris Johnson, who once said “fuck business” when he was foreign secretary.

Sunak has also pledged to make Britain a leading power in science and innovation by 2030.

However, Dyson has previously hit out personally at the prime minister, accusing him of refusing to meet entrepreneurs and investors and the government of presiding over “scandalous neglect” of the science and technology sectors.

In a strongly worded letter to The Times last year, the businessman alleged ministers “talk hubristically” about making Britain a science and tech “superpower”, while overseeing “woeful policies” that rendered the concept no more than a “mere political slogan”.

Dyson, who previously relocated his company’s headquarters to Singapore, warned that he was “investing far more in modern, forward-looking economies elsewhere in the world that encourage growth and innovation rather than deter them”.

He also hit out at “rocketing corporation tax”, “damaging legislation on working from home” and a “crippling shortage of qualified engineers”.

Dyson’s business interests have expanded beyond vacuum cleaners and hair dryers into areas such as farming and education, bringing his business operations further into heavily regulated sectors.

His criticism of the Conservative administration has raised eyebrows in Whitehall. “He keeps sending quite aggressive letters. He’s quite forthright in his views, both publicly and privately,” said one government insider.

Last December, Dyson told The Daily Telegraph he was “disappointed” with the UK’s current political leaders, both Conservative and Labour, and that growth and wealth generation had become “dirty words”.

He said he had backed the economic policies of former prime minister Liz Truss and her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, adding that he “thought they were doing the right thing”, although he acknowledged: “I’m the only one who did.”

Kwarteng’s 2022 “mini” Budget triggered turmoil in the UK bond, currency and pension markets by promising unfunded tax cuts.

A Treasury spokesperson said: “We do not comment on private meetings.”

A spokesperson for Dyson said the company did not comment on private meetings.

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