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.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.