Tuesday 13 April 2010

So what happened to Cameron's vanishing pay ceiling?

From time to time, we do like to be positive about the Conservatives here on Next Left especially when they try to flesh out those fledgling progressive thoughts. Even as the heat of the campaign steps up, we praised George Osborne's acknowledgement that inequality matters, and David Willetts commitment to trying to develop policy based on evidence rather than dogma.

And it was only on Friday that, as good Guardianistas, we were very happy to take the ProgCon bait and welcome David Cameron's pledge to the liberal-left newspaper's readers that a fair pay review which will be asked to ensure that no senior manager in the public sector can earn more than 20 times more than the lowest- paid person in their organisation".

As I wrote to welcome this:

Leave aside the vagueness and let out clauses about whether it would happen, the politics of the move are quite smart ... Labour will have to decide how to respond.

It could choose to nitpick the details or question whether it would happen in practice.

I think it would make more sense to make common cause over the principle being advocated.

Well, maybe. But that was about 96 hours ago. My fellow Guardian readers looking for more progressive beef in the manifesto might wonder why the policy offered to them with such fanfare appears to be missing from the Tory party manifesto.

Unless (perils of live blogging), I've somehow missed it. But all I can see is that there are a series of more modest proposals on the same issue on page 69-70 - involving the publication of salaries, the Treasury signing off the highest salaries, and local councillors having voting powers.

Strangely, it is not just the aim of the 20-1 ceiling which doesn't seem to get a mention, and about which Cameron carefully offered a couple of 'workability' caveats last week.

Perhaps more worryingly, I also can't see that the very clear commitment to holding a fair pay review to look at the question has not made it as a manifesto promise either.

As I post this, David Cameron is just saying that the manifesto is his detailed response to people saying "give me the specifics". On this issue, he certainly hasn't.

I wonder what explains the mystery.

Does this mean they are going cold on the policy already? Or that it isn't particularly important in the Cameron worldview.

Or might it alternatively mean it was cooked up at the very last moment to get a headline in Friday's paper after the manifesto was already printing?

It would be interesting to find out.

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