If a clutch of business groups had attacked an important Labour policy when we were in Opposition, I think you would have heard of it. Front page news, ramped across the TV channels, you’d have heard it.
Had the CBI, The British Chambers of Commerce and the EEF manufacturers’ group all attacked our decision to introduce Regional Development Agencies, for example, you’d have heard about it. Nationally, regionally, it would have been a big issue.
So why is the business position on the Tory decision to remove them considered to be so insignificant, especially given it is so clear? I think we know the answer. It is the same answer that explains the sense of irritation at yesterday’s Observer poll showing the Tory lead down to six. How dare the public have a different take on the political scene to the pundits? Line to take – it is a ‘blip.’
Getting into a bit of Orwellspeak, the Tories say their decision is motivated by the desire to ‘give power back to local people,’ letting councils build enterprise partnerships which would take over the RDAs’ main functions.
The CBI view? – strategic decisions need to be taken at a higher level than councils. The voice of business will not be heard.
The British Chamber of Commerce? – business needs something in between Whitehall and local authorities to plan a strategic approach to infrastructure.
The EEF? – local authorities lack the ability or the funds to identify and meet priorities for a region.
There are plenty of successes the RDAs can point to, individually and as a group, to justify their existence. But the Tories’ big thing is to cut down the State, and they see this as an easy target. They care more about the ideological attack upon ‘big government’ than they do about the possible impact on regions, several of which previous Tory governments decimated economically.
I can understand if they don’t want to listen to me. But you’d have thought they might listen to the CBI, the CofC and the EEF.
Both GB and Cameron are making speeches to the CBI today. Perhaps someone will ask them to explain their very different positions.