Michael Fallon has given a pugnacious interview to the Sunday Telegraph. He said that Britain must end its obsession with the ‘politics of envy’ and celebrate wealth creators as ‘Olympian’. (I wonder what the minister makes of the Romford Business Awards, which are presented by his colleague Andrew Rosindell, the Conservative MP for Romford.)
As well as having venerated wealth, Fallon introduced several policy objectives: a new round of privatisation (Royal Mail being the first target), employment law reform to ease the dismissal of underperforming workers or where working relationships have collapsed, and a sustained attack on 3,000 regulations.
The Sunday Telegraph describes Fallon’s ideas as an ‘agenda pursued by Lady Thatcher’s government’; but, to this reader at least, Fallon seems to be operating within present coalition thinking. His employment law proposals seem to be an extension of what the Business Department has already suggested to empower employment tribunals and tighten unfair dismissal rules; they fall someway short of the controversial ‘no fault dismissal’ recommendation of the Beecroft report, which would allow employers to dismiss employees without providing a reason.
Vince Cable appeared on the Andrew Marr Show and endorsed Fallon’s views. Cable was also laying the ground for the imminent announcement of a new coalition industrial policy (trailed in detail by James Forsyth in today’s Mail on Sunday). Cable emphasised the need for a mixed economy, saying that the state had a greater role to play in securing lasting growth. He was clear that this does not require central direction or subsidy for failing businesses, but rather that Britain would learn the lessons of countries (he mentioned Germany, Finland and the United States) which have recognised the value of long-term planning and partnership with the private sector.
Even when Vince Cable is loyal, he is the focus of intrigue. Ed Balls was making dirty eyes at Cable across Andrew Marr’s casting couch, simpering that he wanted to work with ‘sensible’ voices within the coalition to foster economic growth. Balls was on the show to discuss Labour’s new idea: predistribution. Balls was not wholly enthusiastic, saying: ‘I’m not sure that predistribution is going to do it on the doorstep.’ And as ever with Balls, there was a shock of chicanery. A key part of predistribution is that old Ballsian canard ‘controlling unskilled migration’, which he first raised this during the 2010 Labour leadership contest. Now as then, Balls’s comments recall bolting horses as EU law, incorporated by the previous Labour government, prohibits such controls on EU citizens, who make up a large proportion of migrants. Predistribution was fun while it lasted.