Wednesday, May 11, 2011

George Osborne and the Axis of Charity Evil

You know you're doing something right when George Osborne thinks you're the scourge of society. In a marvellous speech of his today at the Institute of Directors, I learned that organisations like the one I work for are apparently now the "forces of stagnation". Having set out his stall as "unequivocally pro-business" and extolled the virtues of deregulation and low taxes (for which Miles Templeman, outgoing Director General of the IoD, has - quelle surprise! - been a "tireless advocate"), he went on to say:

"Delivering this will not be easy. The forces of stagnation will try to stand in the way of the forces of enterprise. For every line item of public spending, there will be a union defending it. For every regulation on business, a pressure group to defend it. Your voice, the voice of business, needs to go on being heard in the battle."

I'm confused, George! Yesterday we were the Big Society. Today we're the Forces of Stagnation. I don't know what to think any more. I suppose I'll just have to carry on thinking that you're a horrendous Thatcherite idiot.

Really, I just do not know where to start with this bullshit. I think the thing that annoys me most about it is the way that civil society groups are presented as the vested interests, while business leaders asking for lower taxes and less regulation are "tireless advocates" for what's best for Britain. Honestly, what exactly does he think the IoD is if it's not a pressure group? But it's the good kind of pressure group, the kind that agrees with his neoliberal politics because it's in their direct self-interest. Not the bad, nasty, stick-in-the-mud kind, the kind that defends regulations because... because... um, maybe because it's the right thing to do? Maybe because those regulations are there for a reason? Maybe because they protect vulnerable people who don't have Miles Templeman to stand up for them in the corridors of power?

I've blogged before about the 'Red Tape Challenge', which the government has likened to a trial in which regulations will be deemed "guilty until proven innocent". Soliciting a case for the prosecution and not one for the defence is one thing. Attacking the defence as the "forces of stagnation" is another - and for me it feels like the last straw.

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