One thing is for sure. You are left in no doubt where Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, sits on the issue of private equity.

In a recent speech he gave in the city, he said: “They give the impression of being little more than amoral asset-strippers after a quick buck – casino capitalists enjoying huge personal windfalls from deals at the same time as they gamble with other people’s futures.”

Meanwhile, yesterday, the Observer’s Simon Caulkin said: “When a German politician described private equity funds in 2005 as ‘locust’s’ he was mocked. But by and large he was right.” Mr Caulkin also quoted research from the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change, saying that the private equity business: “instead of benefiting the mass of investors, is designed to enrich a tiny minority of partners who set up and run the funds.”

Meanwhile, also writing in the Observer, Ruth Sunderland said: “It is not clear how private equity can justify the fact that it enjoys a raft of tax breaks. These are not to the exclusive benefit of the industry, but they do work disproportionately in its favour.”

But then there’s the other side. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Sylvia Pfeifer had an altogether more sympathetic tone when she said: “The irony that seems to have escaped the GMB union and the Labour politicians who have jumped aboard the anti-buyout bandwagon is that the funds responsible for safeguarding workers’ pensions are the same ones that have been bankrolling the private equity boom, especially the US houses.”

She added that the UK’s pension fund deficit is tumbling down to its lowest level since 2002 according to Watson Wyatt, and that this is: “Thanks to rising equity markets and also to the performance of other pension investments – including private equity.”

The Sunday Times business editor John Waples vented his literary venom on the shrinking violets of the city. He argued that the big banks, such as Barclays and HBOS, the accountants and lawyers, all of whom do very nicely out of private equity thank you very much, have been too silent. He said: “The debate over private equity needs the voices from all the participants, and the one heard from the city has been pitiable.”

Finally, in the Independent, business editor Andrew Murray-Watson argued that: “Private equity-owned companies typically grow faster than their plc peers – which is good for their staff. For every private equity-owned company that has cut jobs, there is at least one that has added to its workforce. Take Fitness First, the gym company: in 2003, when it was sold to private equity, it had 7,000 workers; it now employs 13,500.”

© Investment & Business News 2013