Saturday 20 March 2010

Cameron's confusions over vested interests

David Cameron has this morning invoked this spirit of Margaret Thatcher, both in taking on the unions and in the need to challenge the banks. It is an extremely closely observed carbon copy of LibDem leader Nick Clegg's interview with the Spectator last week. Even if the LibDem leader may find it politically inconvenient to pursue a plagiarism suit, he must surely be due at least a speech-writing fee towards his marginal seats fund.

But isn't there a rather obvious flaw in the Cameron argument? He finds much to celebrate in Thatcher's legacy in democratising the unions.

She recognised that as long there was a closed shop and no proper ballots, power would lie with the big union barons.

They would continue to hold governments to ransom, to drag this country down, and to bully their members. So she took them on.

She broke the stranglehold of the union barons and gave every worker an equal right and equal say.


Unions were given back to their members.

Hurrah! So David Cameron champions the democratic reforms which gave trade unions back to their members, insisting that strike action depended on democratic ballots in which every member would have an equal say.

Doesn't it surely follow that where there is such a democratic ballot in favour of a strike, while Cameron might voice his disagreement (as both government and opposition have done), he would not think it his role to step in and prevent it?

I don't personally think the BA strike is a good idea for Unite or the BA workers, still less for anyone else. If government can press for a resolution of the industrial dispute, that would be a very good thing. It is not difficult to see the political reasons why Gordon Brown will be exerting any pressure he can over the often rather dis-united union, the Bassa strikers and indeed BA itself.

So I am not sure that Cameron is saying he would do anything on the BA strike, other than perhaps use a slightly different soundbite on the TV news to condemn it? Let me know if he is.

I am not sure that many people think that a government, whether Labour or Tory, can do a great deal more than that. Or might this be another case when the political right wants more Big Government rather than less?


Still the main message is that David Cameron is, like Margaret Thatcher, the great champion of the have nots, and the powerless against the powerful.

Change isn’t easy.

It's hard because there will always be people who want to preserve the status quo even when it isn’t working in everyone’s interests.

To maintain their privileges.

To maintain their position.

To make sure that the way things work suit them, rather than everyone else.

They're called vested interests, they are the enemies of change and often they will use any means to block progress.

Sounds great.

But here is what the Thatcher years did to the income distribution.

Those were very good times for those 'whose survival depended on keeping things as they were', only more so.

Social mobility collapsed.

As Red Tory Phillip Blond often observes, the share of wealth owned by the bottom 50% of the population plummeted.

David Cameron has frequently said that he shares Margaret Thatcher's views about both the limits of big government and the need for a strong society. He has said he is "basically a Lawsonian" on taxation too.

The only thing is, he says he wants to reduce inequality too.

Yet we are all still waiting for even a single syllable on where he thinks Margaret Thatcher went wrong in creating such large increases in inequality and poverty.

If Cameron can't explain that, his crusade "against vested interests" looks rather less likely to do much to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Though he would surely regret it if it, once again, achieved the opposite outcome.


_______ said...

It's ridiculous how the BBC was comparing a bunch of air hostesses voting to stike, to the militant trotskyism of the 1980's.

Robert said...

But again we sadly talk about what Thatcher did, but we sadly cannot say nothing at all about new Labour because to be honest they did sod all, they gave the Unions sod all but demanded we pay over our Levy, they gave the Union nothing back in fact Blair tried to kill them off, if it comes to a choice between Thatcher/labour It's hard to know the difference