David Cameron amused the Commons at today’s PMQs with his reference to “Comrade Castro”, whose brother, Raul, the Cuban President, recently announced plans to cut more than a million public sector jobs. Asked by the Tory MP Priti Patel if he had received any submissions from Fidel on deficit reduction, Cameron replied:
Even communist Cuba has got with the programme that we need to cut the budget defict and actually get spending under control. We’ve got Comrade Castro on the same planet as the rest of us. We’ve just got to get the Labour Party and the trade unions onto that planet at the same time.
So is Cuba, one of the world’s few remaining communist states, (the others are Vietnam, Laos, North Korea and China) about to embrace capitalism, warts and all? Not yet, at least, rather a country where the state still employs 85 per cent of all workers is learning to live with the world as it is, rather than as it should be.
In a sharp warning to Cuba’s population, Raul Castro has declared: “We have to end forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where you can live without working”. His elder brother, for good measure, told the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg that the “Cuba model doesn’t even work for us”. But in a recent speech at the University of Havana, Castro insisted that he meant “exactly the opposite” of how the remark was interpreted, declaring instead that the free-market “Washington model” could never work for Cuba.
Either way, if Cuba is looking for a new model, Cameron could do worse than dispatch Steve Hilton to Havana to proselytise for the “Big Society”.