The members of the CBI meeting on Monday were somewhat insistent and David Cameron somerwhat compliant: a dynamic and prosperous private sector would save us from economic depression and the Coalition would do all in its power to help firms large and small thoughout the country through lower taxes, fewer regualtions flexible manpower practices and targetted Government incentives. Long live free enterprise! Had I heard this before?
Well, good luck to them is my response but not at the expense of my job, my family, my way of life. After all, is it not true that modern democratic and parliamentary Government is about the representation of interest, of all our interests. Consider the leaders of the top fifty leading British companies who wrote recently to the press in support of the Coalition’s austerity measures. They are international companies who can locate anywhere. They have no intrinsic compulsion to invest in British industry and jobs, Some, perhaps all, will invest elsewhere if it suits their balance sheets. Might it be that these companies actually benefit from unemployment: the availability of more workers, the lower the wages that might be payable to new recruits. No one pays more than they need. Higher dividends mean richer shareholders. Of course, our pension funds benefit too, I accept, but a host of owners of capital rub their hands at the same time. Our families may suffer but surely not the Captains of industry! If the weight of public consideration is given to the owners of capital, our interests, the interests of the motley, take second best. Is that what we can expect? Is that what we shall get?
The Coalition leaders are often portrayed as non-ideological managers of our interests. Let us place our ideologies in the waste paper basket of history and solve our problems one by one. They can do this apparently. However, it is not clear to everyone that this is what they are about. In the 1980’s Mrs Thatche earned her re-elections on the backs of the unemployed. Around 1982 the economic recovery began but with it came rising unemployment for a further four years to 1986. Is this what we are going to experience now? I don’t know. Boy George doesn’t know either. It does seem to me that the world is a dangerous place. Perhaps we shall avoid a double dip depression but I do not think it is likely that we shall avoid a long period of modest growth (lower than it need be). Who can judge the outcome of foreign currency wars, of a slowing in buoyant BRIC economies, or the multitude of wrecked family lives. No one will pay us for the long years of personal suffering. They will be years lost. I do not envy fat cats but I do not feel that they should sleep easy in their beds while some of us kip in doorways. How about you? Long live Parliamentary democracy. Two cheers for our interests!