The Daily has written before about the reality gap between Cameron’s soundbites and policies on big business.
But it’s always good to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Shadow Trade and Industry spokesman Alan Duncan told the Financial Times that the Tories are “reassuring executives that the leader’s comments [on standing up to big business] were part of a rebranding, rather than an ideological, exercise.”
He repeated the Tories’ line that they will somehow change business behaviour through “exhortation, not regulation”. They might as well try boiling eye of newt and wing of bat in a cauldron and chanting magic spells for all the good that will do. Particularly as the exhortation so far has consisted of David Cameron actually praising some of the worst corporate offenders.
The idea of letting businesses do whatever they want in the name of the free market is really just an encore for the ideology formerly known as Thatcherism. Rebranded or not, it is not a new approach and nor is it on the centre ground.
Also interesting is Duncan’s about-turn on the DTI – apparently this is no longer to be abolished. “The golden goose needs a guardian” he said, “and I am that guardian.”
This correspondent remembers a conversation with Alan Duncan during which the Tory MP and part-time catalogue model declared, “We have to abolish the DTI for a start!” So keen was he to guard the golden goose, it was top of his list for the chop under a Tory government.
The problem we have at the moment is that the government doesn’t seem willing or able to take advantage. On the contrary, Alastair Darling’s rather dismal response so far has been to tack even closer to the Tories on these issues rather than tabling progressive proposals and aggressively challenging Cameron to match his words with action.
When it comes to big business, the discourse of the political elite is out of synch with where the centre ground is in public opinion. That means the government is missing a chance to start defining Cameron as he is, rather than how he spins himself. There may not be too many of those chances before it’s too late.