Cable’s attack on Thatcherism gets an airing

Scottish Lib Dem leader delivers the comments that Vince Cable dropped from a recent speech.

Vince Cable's recent call for a "progressive majority" of Labour and Lib Dem voters to support AV in order to end Tory dominance reminded us that most Lib Dems would be far more comfortable in coalition with Ed Miliband's party than with David Cameron's. If you want to get an idea of the loathing that some Lib Dems retain for the Tories it's well worth reading the interview with the Lib Dems' leader in Scotland, the aptly named Tavish Scott, in today's Scotsman.

Scott has previously put clear yellow water between himself and Nick Clegg by admitting that the Lib Dem leader makes him "grimace". Today, he launches a ferocious attack on the Conservatives ahead of the devolved elections on 5 May.

He declares that the Tories would have "burned Scotland at the stake" if they had entered government on their own last year and claims that Clegg has spared Scotland "the worst excesses of Thatcherism". He adds: "We all remember Thatcherism – the poll tax, Scotland being used as a guinea pig, mass unemployment."

But what is fascinating is that his comments are almost identical to those that Cable dropped from his speech at the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce last week. A press release of the speech given to journalists suggested that the Business Secretary would argue that the Lib Dems were preventing the Tories from "behaving like they did" under Thatcher.

The Business Secretary was scheduled to say: "I remember the negative side of Thatcherism – the poll tax, mass unemployment and the claims that there was no such thing as society . . . That's why I'm glad the Tories aren't in power themselves at Westminster. We have stopped the Tories behaving like they did under Thatcher."

The similarities continue. Cable was also due to argue that "we stopped them from introducing their plans to cut taxes for millionaires". In today's interview, Scott says: "they [the Conservatives] wanted to help millionaires with inheritance tax, not help low-paid people out of tax altogether".

Until now, why Cable decided to remove those remarks from his speech has remained a mystery. Most assumed that he simply wanted to avoid further controversy after his attack on Cameron's "very unwise" immigration speech. But it now seems likely that Lib Dem strategists believed that the attack on Thatcherism would be more convincing if it came from Scott (who, of course, is not a member of the coalition), rather than Cable.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.