Thursday, August 16, 2007

Keep right on to the end of the road

Owing to a rush of work and some ill-deserved holiday, I've hardly had a chance to look at things for the past couple of weeks, but the Tory policy process is grinding away again. This conveyor belt of reports is less about real manifesto proposals and rather more to do with creating a Pick N' Mix to attract voters. If you want something green, then the Tories will be able to dip into that jar. If you prefer something libertarian, then that nice Mr Redwood would be able to give you a handful of sweeties. The thing is that the whole doesn't hang together with any sense of cohesive principle - it is simply more Cameronian spin.

Like a dodgy second-hand car, the Tories are pulling to the right as the steering wears out. The sound of flapping white coats fills our ears again as John Redwood hoves into view, miming (badly) to the Welsh national anthem and promising tax cuts - music to the ears of the Tory faithful.

Data protection laws are to be scrapped - no reason to ensure that companies have to spend time and money actually trying to look after your personal information. If your bank decides to dump your bank details on the street rather than securely shredding it, why should they face any restriction on that?

As part of a sustained attack on regulation, which proposes putting market forces in charge, rather than government or EU regulation:
We advise restoring the Social Chapter opt out, and producing UK rules on: Works Councils, part time and fixed term working, sex discrimination, information, and consultation. These should balance the interests of existing employees with the need for a flexible labour market to create more jobs
I suspect that this 'UK-approach' wouldn't provide the same level of protection that we currently have, thanks to Labour. Your boss will be able to demand that you work any hours that they wish. We already work some of the longest hours in the world, so why shouldn't we have to work longer?
These regulations... restrict people’s access to overtime, and reduce businesses’ flexibility to respond to their employees’ wishes, as well as their ability to manage their workload sensibly.
This overlooks the fact that employees can agree to step outside the rules - although even that exemption is abused by some employers who require recruits to sign away their rights under the WTR. It is absolutely clear that the intention is to create a labour market thoroughly tilted in favour of business and the employer. It will be easier to sack you, to hire

We see no need to continue to regulate the provision of mortgage finance, as it is the lending institutions rather than the client taking the risk.
The borrower is simply putting their home into the hands of a mortgage supplier. Anyone else remember the mis-selling of certain mortgage products over recent years?

Truly, those donations from big business to the Tory Party are going to pay off. The Midlands Industrial Council will be working out how to spend their extra profits.
Leisure and cultural facilities. There is scope for these to be financed through public-private initiatives. Those councils wishing to ensure access to such facilities by young, elderly or disabled people could guarantee payments to providers, which would cover their use by local communities.
Does that suggest to you that equality of access might become purely optional? If you can't afford it and your local council doesn't want to support you, tough.

Expect lots more toll roads and ever-higher rail ticket prices, as public financing of new track projects will be a thing of the past. Oh, and traffic calming measures will be 'reassessed.' The chief proposal for improving rail services seems to be adding rubber-tyred wheels to suburban trains - a concept that has been ridiculed by rail specialists in this country as impractical because of the massive changes that would be required to current track layouts.

Redwood even has the nerve to tackle the issue of coal-mining.
The UK coal industry is a shadow of its former self. It is the casualty of too many years as a nationalised industry, where poor management and endless political rows helped to ensure its rapid decline.
A decline in no way assisted by a vindictive Tory government, of course - although Scargill's ego has to bear responsibility as well.

Cameron has spent months trying to change the image of the party - these proposals will show us how little that the Tories have really changed. One glance at this report and the unions should be only too willing to cough up the money for Gordon's snap election (should he choose to call it).

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