On the subject of compromise, there must be an even more uneasy atmosphere around the Cabinet table following the front-page report in the FT today saying that Vince Cable cannot support the government’s reforms of employment law.
Saint Vince is reported as saying he will resist “bonkers” proposals over “no-fault dismissals”. Mind you, he was ready to go to war with News International over their proposed purchase of BSkyB until he shot himself in the foot. Cable is also reported as having had conversations with Ed Miliband; so has Nick Clegg. About what? We’re not told apart from a vague reference to “important areas of public policy”. What’s happened to collective Cabinet responsibility?
The Cabinet seems to be lining up for a dispute between the Tories and the Lib Dems over the Beecroft report, with the Prime Minister apparently in favour of the reforms. I wonder if the Beecroft report might prove to be the Achilles heel of this government. The FT makes the point, which has also been echoed on Twitter this morning, that the author of the report, Adrian Beecroft, is a substantial Tory donor. Party funding and government policy do not sit easily together. The Government has already commenced a “cash-for-access” enquiry, led by Tory Peer Lord Gold following its co-Treasurer Peter Cruddas’s enlightening revelations last month saying that £250,000 could buy you dinner with George Osborne and David Cameron. Whether the Gold enquiry will gain public confidence as being an independent and fair investigation of the issues seems unlikely and was recently described as being a whitewash and “rather like asking the Kray twins to investigate gangland crime in the East End”.
It will be interesting to see to what extent the Lib Dems are prepared to oppose these proposals. Reform of employment law was in the Queen’s Speech, which presumably had the support of both Coalition partners. However, the Conservatives are in a weak position at the moment and they surely won’t want to gift the Opposition a chance to say that a contentious issue like employment law reform is being decided by Tory donors: cash for access writ large, in other words. Having said that the Lib Dems are in an even weaker position following the caning they took in the local elections, so surely they won’t want the Coalition to fail at this stage?
Just maybe the Beecroft report might get filed away quietly somewhere, or be substantially diluted.