It’s a big Well Done this morning to Vince Cable and other Lib Dems for standing up to the agenda talked up by the Tory donor Adrian Beecroft and calling it (in politer terms than I might) what it is: bonkers.
This particular agenda is not based on any evidence, just pure ideology and playing to the gallery of the downmarket press who will swallow posturing rather than serious attempts to make the economy grow. And it has a rather sinister ‘old politics’ edge.
I understand that even the more superficially tempting of these proposed measures – all with the agenda of taking away the most basic of legal protection afforded employees – have significant question marks over them. Beecroft himself is one of those so-called ‘venture capitalists’ – and consequently has no experience whatsoever of the effects of employment law on growth. He does, however, as a major donor to the Tories, have a rare way into the corridors of power, and it appears that the cheques have some effect in adding credibility to his ill-informed nonsense.
Liberal Democrats seemed rather too willing to pander to this agenda when accepting significant Tory erosions to employment protection in Autumn 2011; but with the departure of Ed Davey from BIS and his replacement with Norman Lamb (an employment lawyer by profession), a new backbone appears to have developed alongside greater reliance on evidence. There seems to be a realisation, too, that Beecroft’s Lord Of The Flies world would do no good to other government goals on being family-friendly, or even on making work an attractive alternative to benefits. None of them will deliver the boost the country needs to grow the economy: Vince Cable’s work to reform the banks, if implemented faster, certainly will.
It’s right that this report is published – but not as a Government document. For it demonstrates the urgent need for reform of political funding. That someone like this can walk into a Tory fundraising dinner, write a cheque and then see his ideas printed with what appears to be the full approval of the Prime Minister, and taken seriously in Government without the slightest of evidence, is quite appalling. It is strange indeed that Nick Clegg has not made much greater play of the funding reform agenda in light of this.
Beecroft is, to sum up, a sideshow: but that shouldn’t stop every single Liberal Democrat giving his proposals a good old-fashioned rubbishing.