With a general election expected in early May, making life easier for small businesses is moving to the top of the political agenda. The Conservatives are promising to reverse an increase in national insurance, while Labour takes credit for saving the banks and the Liberal Democrats claim to have foreseen the crisis.
In the wake of last week's budget (EURACTIV 25/03/10), the Conservatives have pledged to partially reverse the government's plans to increase national insurance by 1%.
The increase, due to come into effect in April 2011, has come under fire from business groups who claim it will hurt job creation by increasing costs for employers and employees.
A consortium of nine business organisations has launched a petition demanding the repeal of the insurance hike on the grounds that it is a "tax on jobs" which could result in the loss off 57,000 jobs in the small business sector.
Conservative leader David Cameron has also revealed plans to make tax cuts the centrepiece of his election campaign, preferring to reduce spending in a bid to rein in the budget deficit.
However, Chancellor Alistair Darling was praised by industry groups in the wake of his budget speech in which he cut business rates for small firms and introduced a credit adjudicator with the power to force banks to lend to SMEs.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown's obvious weakness is his tenure as chancellor during the period of light-touch regulation, which fostered a growing dependence on revenues from the City-based financial services sector.
In spite of this, Labour is playing the experience card and plans to target the shadow chancellor, George Osborne, who they see as "immature and lightweight". Osborne, say Labour strategists, is a weak link in the would-be Tory cabinet.
In stark contrast, Liberal Democrats are keen to turn the spotlight onto their money man, Vince Cable – a seasoned economist seen as their trump card as the election draws ever closer.
On top of his PhD in economics, Cable can claim some prescience in warning that Britain's burgeoning personal debt would lead to a financial crisis.
As far back as November 2003, Cable was criticising the Labour government for letting debt spiral upwards. Cable has also slammed UK banks for unscrupulous lending practices.
However, opinion polls suggest the Liberal Democrats will finish in third place, so Cable is unlikely to be handed the keys to the Treasury.
The growth in fringe parties like the British National Party, UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the Green Party could also be significant if local elections are any guide to how smaller groups will fare.
The economy and how to tackle the national debt will be top of the agenda but social issues like health reform, crime and schools will also feature.
The UK's relationship with Europe is also likely to be part of the debate, with some Conservatives following a eurosceptic agenda in defending their seats against UKIP and the BNP (British National Party).