Cable rejects unfair dismissal proposals

The Business Secretary says there is "no evidence" to back up claims in Downing Street report leaked

Vince Cable has rejected the suggestion, put forward by Adrian Beecroft, that unfair dismissal laws should be scrapped. As I blogged yesterday, a report by the venture capitalist commissioned by Downing Street claimed that the laws were hindering efficiency and growth by making it too difficult for employers to sack unproductive members of staff. It went so far as to say that this was the "first" problem facing British enterprise.

Asked about the proposals during a speech on growth at the Policy Exchange think-tank, Cable stressed that it was not an official report. He dismissed the central argument:

No evidence has been advanced that I have seen that it will improve labour market flexibility in general, or have any beneficial effect, but if anyone can produce any, we will look at it.

He also added that unemployment has not shot up due to a lack of flexibility in the labour market, and commended the flexibility of business and workers during the recession:

There was a great deal of flexibility shown by our employees as well as the employers. I go round a lot of our industrial plants. The unions have their formal positions, but it is very clear they are committed to their companies and are very flexible about working practices so the world has changed an awful lot in the last 30 years in a positive way.

According to aides, Cable and the Employment Minister, Ed Davey, are fighting to ensure that plans for growth do not end up with a narrow-focus on restrictive employment laws. However, George Osborne has already announced a range of measures which will make it easier to sack people. In the reforms that have gone through, people are only entitled to claim unfair dismissal when they have been working for at least two years. With further proposals expected on sick pay, it is urgent that this does not become an all-out assault on workers' rights at a time when employment is already so unstable.

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

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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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