The weekend has brought several political revelations, all of which should tip us over the edge sufficiently to radically change the way in which we respond to our ‘once every 5 years’ chance to choose what our Government looks like. Something which will take place in around 90 days.
First we had the Political Punch and Judy show between the two largest Parties on which of them loves Business most. There has been all sorts of public posturing along with the news today that the Conservatives appear to have given massive tax breaks the most wealthy, on the same day some of the same obscenely wealthy people are enjoying their annual chance to donate anonymously to the party at the Black & White Ball which will generate Millions for the Conservatives. Only a Political Party about to fill their bank account would consider this to be anything other than a total abuse of Party funding rules, but of course these people know no shame. Labour has been attempting to redress the balance in terms of public statements about their commitment to business but without the ongoing involvement of people like Lord Mandelson who enjoy meeting Oligarchs and other uber-rich people, as much as they do making public policies. The truth is that if these parties really believed in business and ensuring it is free to generate wealth and jobs for the nation, they would focus not on plc Chairmen and CEOs, but instead on the vital work of the SME sector. If we want to do a quick test on how committed the coalition is to supporting business and job creation we can simply look at their front bench team. Few within the BIS team have any real business experience. Nick Boles established a small DIY supplies business, but has actually spent most of his time in the world of Westminster and PR, Jo Swinson has spent time in PR, George Freeman in Venture Capital, Ian Livingstone was CEO of BT, and Lucy Neville Rolfe in senior management within the Civil Service and then Tesco. The rest of the team have had no business experience whatsoever. Apart from Nick Boles none have had any experience of starting up a small business or risking their own time and money to create jobs and his experience is hardly substantial.
On Sunday the Guardian published a story by Zoe Williams that focuses on how little understanding the coalition had when it introduced the changes to policy on welfare payments and legal aid. I have written about the former of these and how open civil servants were in explaining that the Government was introducing major changes to a complex set of interacting benefits without any form or modelling of the impact on the people being impacted and the need for local services to prepare for these. Sadly none of the Ministers concerned appear to have any real sense of accountability for outcomes that are now causing real pain to already vulnerable people.
The final strand is on the issue of taxes and the public purse. It appears that at the end of this month, there is to be a celebration of Magna Carta in the form of a high profile conference called the Global Law Summit. Those invited to speak are to be Ministers, Business leaders and legal experts. The event is not taking place in Runnymede but rather in Westminster at the QE2 Conference Centre. The day rate for the 3 day conference is a mere £529! Along with a number of Government speakers are Robert Buckland MP, Solicitor General for England and Wales who has just discovered he was personally avoiding tax as a result of his investment in film production and Stephen Green who it now appears was in charge of HSBC when it was helping 1000’s of wealthy people to avoid their tax bills. Whilst no one has the monopoly on Magna Carta it will seem as though the organisers and Government have rather missed the point if they don’t have a rapid rethink regarding their current line up of speakers. Perhaps what we really need is a new charter that will have the same impact on the current power brokers in Westminster that the original had on King John!