Tuesday, 11 September 2012

An end to laissez-faire..

BREAKING NEWS: Vince Cable has been on the Today programme discussing his plans for a new, state sponsored business bank. The plans are still rather nebulous at this stage, although Dr Cable's vision for the role of the state comes across clearly :

"We recognise there are areas where the banking sector just isn't working for large chunks of the economy. Small business lending has actually contracted.

"There may well be [government money behind the bank]. The scale and scope is something that I am discussing with the Chancellor at the moment.

"We do feel that although it is not the role of the government to direct industries...there is a role for government in areas like directing research....pure laissez-faire is not the way.

"The reason why construction and energy are there is because they are clear inputs into the things we make. Most sectors of the economy function perfectly well on their own, they want lower taxes and for the government to get out of the way."


The government will announce its new industrial policy this afternoon. Vince Cable will unveil a scheme by the Treasury to sponsor a new lender which could offer credit to business through an existing network of smaller lenders such as the Co-Op.

The speech, at London’s Imperial College, will be taken as an end to the government’s “laissez-faire” industrial policy.

Dr Cable’s willingness to promote the direct involvement of the state in making credit available to business mirrors the stance the government has taken in personal lending with schemes such as FirstBuy. The move suggests that, despite overtures from the Labour Party, the coalition remains broad enough to accommodate Dr Cable’s more interventionist views.

The Telegraph report that Dr Cable is expected to say:

“As the credit crunch showed there are huge risks to taking a complacent, hands-off approach.

“As our thriving automotive and aerospace sectors show, I strongly believe the potential rewards [for state support] are substantial.”

The new bank will target lending to  car makers, aerospace, life sciences, construction, energy, higher education and creative industries, according to the Daily Mail . The other major announcement expected this afternoon is of a further £250m for the government’s Employer Ownership scheme which provides funds for vocational training.


The TUC conference is underway with the unions facing a fresh and hitherto unexpected challenge - Ed Miliband: Enforcer.

The FT  (£) reports that Mr Miliband told union officials to focus their efforts on persuading the government, rather than drawing public ire through walk-outs . His message was unequivocal:

“The public doesn’t want to see your strikes. Nor do your members. Nor do you.”

So much for Red Ed. Mr Miliband’s remarks seem to chime with the mood in much of the left. Steve Richards, writing in today’s Independent , also seems to be losing patience with the strike rhetoric:

“Here we go again. Union leaders have one chance a year to set the news agenda. They chose once more to place the focus on the threat of further strikes. Many other worthy issues are under discussion at their gathering in Brighton, but they have allowed the talk of industrial action to become the overwhelming theme, the only one that most of the public will notice.”

The unions have not been deterred. A full page advertisement in today’s Telegraph by 38 degrees, a body made up of NHS workers supported by unions, features a beaming Jeremy Hunt and the slogan:

“We’re keeping you under observation, Jeremy.”

Meanwhile, Brendan Barber’s speech yesterday  was a naked exercise in class warfare. Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne were incapable of addressing the nation’s economic problems because they cared more about the “boutiques of Notting Hill” he told delegates, adding:

“What we are staring in the face is many years of stagnation – our own lost decades. And it won’t be the West London rich who suffer. No, it will be the rest of us.”

He might be onto something. Today’s  Guardian reports that Bill Clinton’s former pollster Stan Greenberg believes that 68 per cent of Britons believe that the economy is harsh on workers and too generous to the rich.

Whatever happened to John Major’s “classless society”?


Bo-Jo capped a successful summer by stealing the limelight at Team GB’s victory parade. The Guardian was particularly taken with Mr Johnson’s clowning:

“Boris Johnson stole the show at the parade for the Olympics and Paralympics as the London mayor capped a summer in the limelight when he appeared to reduce David Cameron to a slightly awkward bystander.

“The media attention will delight Johnson who in turn regards the prime minister as an intellectual lightweight. When he was appointed editor of the Spectator in 1999 Johnson used to take great delight in saying that his degree in Classics had landed him one of the greatest jobs in journalism while his great rival was a mere PR executive at Carlton Television.”

All that, and not a zip wire in sight. Number 10 was reportedly unimpressed. “Serious times call for serious people,” sniffed a source.


This morning sees the launch of Conservative Voice, a new pressure group within the party seeking to push it back to the right. We report that Tory big beasts such as Liam Fox and David Davies are backing the campaign which will seek to win right-wing voters back from UKIP.

Writing in today’s Telegraph, one of the founders, former MP Don Porter, characterises members as “a group of all the talents from the radical wing of the party.”

The Guardian’s leader today sees the Conservatives in danger of fragmenting as electoral realities bite.  As I wrote in  my blog yesterday, Mr Cameron is being squeezed from both sides:

“Mr Cameron is being stalked on all sides, by deadly rivals who want his job, by disgruntled MPs and former ministers who just want to spite him, and by party ideologues who want to herd  him towards properly Conservative policies. Quite a few of them would like to see him fail.  It is pointless to ignore these currents, or to try and play them down.”


Sunday is the 20th anniversary of Black Wednesday, as Philip Johnston notes in today’s  Telegraph. Wednesday, on the other hand, could herald Black Wednesday 2.0. As the Independent  reports, the decision of the German Constitutional Court on the legality of the eurozone bail-out is just one of a number of potential pitfalls for the single currency.


After cosying up with Nicholas Soames earlier this week, Frank Field is back on more familiar form, attacking IDS’s universal credit in today’s Guardian. He argues that “means testing only increases dependency, and the universal credit is...the ultimate form of means testing.”


Turnout for elections to police commissioner roles could be as low as 18.5 per cent, according to a report in  The Times (£). Hardly encouraging for the government’s flagship criminal justice policy, nor is the Guardian’s quote from an adult social care advisor:

“I’ve heard of several candidates who have had to step down because of minor criminal convictions.”


And finally, Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke has made an immediate impression in his new role as aide to Northern Ireland Minister Mike Penning. The Sun reports that Mr Shelbrooke suffered online vitriol when he took to Twitter to announce his appointment to “Northern Island”.

Thankfully his parliamentary colleagues were supportive amidst the barrage of abuse Mr Shelbrooke then received on Twitter. “Hopefully he now realises we are a long way from New Zealand’s north island,” said Democratic Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson.


Labour MP Tom Harris has been catching up on some easy listening:

@TomHarrisMP: “Listening to the audiobook of Tony Blair's "A Journey". Added bonus: Tony doing a Dennis Skinner impression.”


In The Telegraph

Mary Riddell - Cameron’s demolition job risks tearing the country from its past 

Philip Johnston - Black Wednesday: The day that Britain went over the edge 

Don Porter - Why Conservative radicals are uniting for victory 

David Horspool - We’re all waving the Union flag now

Best of the rest

Rachel Sylvester in The Times (£) -  Why the whiff of success clings to Brand Boris

Steve Richards in The Independent -  Strike threats show just how out of touch the unions now are

Janan Ganesh in The FT (£) -  The Tories may regret their disdain of Romney

Max Hastings in the Daily Mail -  Think Clegg and Cameron are awful? Then just imagine the Ed, Ed and Vince show


Today:  TUC annual congress continues in Brighton. Ed Balls is today’s keynote speaker.

08:30am: Conservative Voice launches.  Former frontbenchers David Davis and Liam Fox among politicians launching new group calling for "radical" policy and better campaigning St Stephen's Club, 34 Queen Anne's Gate.

09:30 am: Ofqual chief regulator Glenys Stacey to give evidence to the Commons education select committee on this summer's GCSE English grading crisis. Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) will also appear.

10:15 am: Police, Locog and G4S officials give evidence to MPs on the Olympics security row.  Those appearing include Sebastian Coe and G4S chief executive Nick Buckles. Committee room 15, House of Commons.

10:30am Care Quality Commission give evidence to Commons Health Committee on their performance. Committee Room 8, House of Commons

12 pm: David Cameron hosts a roundtable with UK food and grocery businesses to support the Feeding Britain’s Future campaign.  Downing Street

12:30 pm: David Cameron and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson host fa ood industry event. 10 Downing Street

1:00 pm: Business Secretary Vince Cable to unveil a new industrial strategy. Imperial College, Exhibition Road.

1:30 pm: Home Secretary Theresa May to deliver speech to the Police Superintendents' annual conference. Chesford Grange Hotel, Warwickshire, CV8 2LD. Home Office: 020 7035 3535.

18:00 Outgoing Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Denis O'Connor to give a speech on police reform. Policy Exchange, Clutha House, 10 Storey's Gate.