Adrian Beecroft: Vince Cable is a "socialist"

"The Tories are hugely held back by the Lib Dems," says author of controversial report on employment

The Beecroft saga is the gift that keeps on giving. Since it was first submitted in October, the report by the venture capitalist and Tory donor Adrian Beecroft has been causing a coalition headache. Earlier this week, Vince Cable said he would not allow the “bonkers” proposals – which include no fault dismissal – to go through.

This was swiftly followed by Nick Clegg rejecting the plans, and reports that Downing Street would quietly drop the report.

But you don’t knock a venture capitalist down that easily, and Beecroft has come out fighting. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, he said that Cable’s objections to the proposals are “ideological not economic”, saying:

I think he is a socialist who found a home in the Lib Dems, so he’s one of the left. I think people find it very odd that he’s in charge of business and yet appears to do very little to support business.

Clearly, Beecroft doesn’t remember Cable’s 2010 conference speech, where he pre-empted precisely these sorts of devastating charges: “I’m not some kind of socialist”. They don't call him the sage of Twickenham for nothing.

Nor is Cable the only target of Beecroft’s rage – he doesn’t think much of coalition at all, it seems:

I do think they [the Tories] are hugely held back by the Lib Dems. I think you could put together a bunch of suggestions out of the report, as a coherent programme, that would say, you know, we are tackling the issues that business has with employment law but the Lib Dems will have none of it.

Nick Clegg is always threatening to go nuclear and dissolve the whole thing if he doesn’t get his way with this, that and the other. Which you’d think actually must be a hollow threat. Therefore, why can’t the government be more robust? I don’t know what the answer is. But it is disappointing.

He also discloses that although Cameron is now distancing himself from the report, the Conservatives were very supportive of his plans in private meetings: “I’m talking about Steve Hilton, that group and they assured me that David Cameron wanted to do the whole thing". To paraphrase Scooby Doo, it appears that he thinks he would have got away with it if it wasn’t for those pesky Lib Dems.
 

Vince Cable. Photograph: Getty Images

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Benn vs McDonnell: how Brexit has exposed the fight over Labour's party machine

In the wake of Brexit, should Labour MPs listen more closely to voters, or their own party members?

Two Labour MPs on primetime TV. Two prominent politicians ruling themselves out of a Labour leadership contest. But that was as far as the similarity went.

Hilary Benn was speaking hours after he resigned - or was sacked - from the Shadow Cabinet. He described Jeremy Corbyn as a "good and decent man" but not a leader.

Framing his overnight removal as a matter of conscience, Benn told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "I no longer have confidence in him [Corbyn] and I think the right thing to do would be for him to take that decision."

In Benn's view, diehard leftie pin ups do not go down well in the real world, or on the ballot papers of middle England. 

But while Benn may be drawing on a New Labour truism, this in turn rests on the assumption that voters matter more than the party members when it comes to winning elections.

That assumption was contested moments later by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Dismissive of the personal appeal of Shadow Cabinet ministers - "we can replace them" - McDonnell's message was that Labour under Corbyn had rejuvenated its electoral machine.

Pointing to success in by-elections and the London mayoral election, McDonnell warned would-be rebels: "Who is sovereign in our party? The people who are soverign are the party members. 

"I'm saying respect the party members. And in that way we can hold together and win the next election."

Indeed, nearly a year on from Corbyn's surprise election to the Labour leadership, it is worth remembering he captured nearly 60% of the 400,000 votes cast. Momentum, the grassroots organisation formed in the wake of his success, now has more than 50 branches around the country.

Come the next election, it will be these grassroots members who will knock on doors, hand out leaflets and perhaps even threaten to deselect MPs.

The question for wavering Labour MPs will be whether what they trust more - their own connection with voters, or this potentially unbiddable party machine.