I returned from a few days away to see a storm brewing about something disparaging that David Cameron has said about accountants.
The offending headline in the Daily Telegraph on 7 May was: “We’re not just a bunch of accountants”. This was an extract from an article attributed to David Cameron in the paper. He said much the same thing recently during an interview with the BBC’s Nick Robinson.
Michael Izza, CEO of the ICAEW, writing on his blog, describes the PM’s comments as: ”uninformed and ill judged”. On this occasion, I think Michael’s comments could be self-referential.
If, instead of focusing on the headline, we consider the full quote we can see that the PM did not take a gratuitous swipe at the accountancy profession. He said:
“People want to know that we’re not just a bunch of accountants trying to turn round the British Economy as if it were a failing economy, but that we are resolutely on their side as we do this work.”
It’s clear to me that the PM simply used the word ‘accountants’ as a short-hand for for a specific sub-set of our profession. That is the Corporate Recovery and Insolvency Practitioners. And I think he’s right to want to emphasise that the Government is not focused only on that type of specialist accountancy related activity.
The PM and Chancellor have made other negative comments recently in the context of clever accountants cooking up tax schemes. But on this occasion I suggest that those accountants who felt insulted by what they read or heard this week can calm down. Perhaps any accountants who took offence should think whether they could do more to avoid anyone jumping to the conclusion that references to accountants are intended to be negative slurs. The more we all do to show that accountants do not fit the old stereotypes the better.