The chaos of one of the most inept ministerial reshuffles ever seen reminded older Conservatives of Harold Macmillan’s ‘Night of the Long Knives’. This took place on 13 July 1962 when the then Prime Minister dismissed seven members of his Cabinet, one third of the total. Nine junior ministers were also sacked. As now there was declining Conservative popularity, by-election losses (shades of Corby to come) and public dismay over the prevailing economic policies. Macmillan was said to have lost ‘his nerve and judgement’. He was then rocked by the Christine Keeler affair involving the Secretary State for War John Profumo. By 1964 Macmillan was gone and Alex Douglas-Home subsequently lost the General Election to Labour under Harold Wilson. I hope that Dave is not a student of political history and that Nadine Dorries behaves herself.
Out of the farce (the ‘moving’ of Justine Greening, the appointment of Jeremy Hunt as Secretary for Health and the return of David Laws, to name but three) came a supposed strengthening of the Business Departments.
On the Andrew Marr Show (Sunday) Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Vince Cable told his host that he loves everybody. He adores Nick, he’s committed to Dave and George, he texts Ed M and he’s close to Ed Balls. He thinks the rich should pay more, that the inquiry about a new runway at Heathrow is about options, he loves his department and as an accomplished ballroom dancer he rather fancies the odd rumba.
Well, he’s about to get one. Three days into the job the new business minister Michael Fallon has announced that he’s going to slash 3,000 red tape rules. He has identified 6,500 regulations which cost small firms time and money. He will achieve his target by the end of 2013: he’s calling it ‘the Red Tape Challenge’. All will be revealed this week. The rhetoric has been gushing:
We are focusing on regulations that cost business money – pointless annual checks that force small firms to hire consultants, for example
The term ‘red tape’ dates back to Henry VIII when he besieged Pope Clement VII with around eighty petitions for the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Each one was bound with the customary red tape.
The red tape to be attacked includes health and safety rules, employment tribunals and the ability of the employer to sack underperforming staff.
At the end of 2013 can we expect the Secretary of State to sack Michael Fallon for having failed to make any impact on the burden of red tape? Vince has been trying for two years and has made no impact whatsoever.
Not a chance. Vince loves everybody, especially Ed x 2 whose Party introduced much of the red tape in the first place.