If shouting ‘anti-business’ seems a bit weak, we can assume it is still only the beginning
Following on from yesterday, we’re keeping our eye open for how the battle back against the rising mood of dissatisfaction at excessive high pay among business leaders will be fought. What do we get first? Osborne calling us all anti-business. A rising tide of widespread public anger and Osborne thinks he can stem it by calling us all names? Not exactly a terrifying rejoinder. Presumably he though he could get the small business sector (to whom he was speaking) whooping and cheering for big bankers, big business and massive pay.
Well, if the reaction we’ve had to our report on how procurement is shutting small businesses out of big public contracts in favour of big corporates is anything to go by, he has misjudged. It’s not just a couple of trade union leaders who need to be isolated if they are going to make the anti-high-pay agenda go away. Let’s have a look at what Osborne thinks is going to be the shape of the ideological arguments that will turn us all around:
He says: “rewards for failure are unacceptable, and those who believe in the free market are the first to say so“. Oh really? Who? When? I can’t remember any of the free-market advocates pointing to any of their pals and saying ‘nah, your bonus is unacceptable’. If he thinks he can make corporate responsibility a free-market initiative he’ll need a time machine, not a speech.
He says: “there are those who are trying to create an anti-business culture in Britain and we have to stop them“. Ah, that’s more like it. It’s not general public revulsion, its The Enemy Within. Take a view, contaminate it by ascribing it to a malicious group hell-bent on our destruction and seek thereby to isolate it. So he has been reading ‘Ideological Manipulation for Dummies’ after all.
He says: “At stake are not pay packages for a few, but jobs and prosperity for the many“. And finally, some economic gibberish to try and make us all believe we’ve misunderstood the shape of the problem. The problem isn’t too much unjustified greed, its too little. Because somehow massive pay benefits us all. No-one with any real grip of economics is likely to support this silliness, but as with most economics (in politics) the person deploying the language is banking on none of us really understanding it. High pay does not lead to high growth and in any case high growth does not lead to ‘prosperity for the many’. It leads to ‘austerity’.
This was a bit pathetic really. But then again, it had only two audiences – the Labour Party and the Daily Mail. The plan is that the first will panic and the latter will come back to the fold. The worry, of course, is that both these things seem quite possible.
Backlashes used to be more impressive than this.