Theresa May has never been an enthusiastic defender of free-market capitalism, much to the frustration of many in business.
However, to give credit where it’s due, the PM pushed back quite hard against Jeremy Corbyn’s latest assault on private business, which was sparked by the collapse of Carillion. After the Labour leader stumbled his way through a few points on outsourcing and privatisation (he’s never sure-footed when talking about business) May hit back not with a defence of Carillion, but with a welcome recognition that “the vast majority of people in this country in employment are employed by the private sector” before calling out the shadow chancellor for having described business as “the enemy.”
Corbyn will always be comfortable railing against rigged systems and fat-cat bankers, and May is faced with a choice of how to respond. She can either concede the ground and revisit her ill-fated election campaign ideas about reining in free-markets or, as she did during PMQs on Wednesday, she can meet fire with fire and stand up for private enterprise and businesses of all sizes.
To do so with clarity and confidence would mark a welcome change of strategy, and a politically lucrative one. Away from Corbyn’s online army, people understand the need for a vibrant private sector and it must be the job of a Conservative government to support it as well as make the case for it. Corbyn’s staked out his ground, and he’s not going to move from it. He will fight the next election on an anti-business platform, and the Tories should ensure that this worries anyone who runs, works in or aspires to start a company.
At a dinner earlier this week one guest asked a City grandee (who was lamenting May’s lack of enthusiasm for business) whether such a strategy would work for her. “If she doesn’t f**king well try she’ll never f**king well find out,” he said. Plainly spoken, and right.
Soas' intellectual enquiry
A rare treat on Wednesday morning as the head of the Marxist Society at the London School of African and Oriental Studies confidently told Today Programme listeners that it isn’t fair to claim that Communism has never worked because “it has never been allowed to thrive”. She went on to sing the praises of Soviet Russia’s planned economy and blamed the West for undermining the reds. Where to begin? Well, I began on Twitter – observing that this baffling and blinkered defence of a tyrannical and murderous ideology had me laughing into my latte. The student Marxists hit back, telling me that “the USSR went from nothing to second most powerful nation on earth in 50 years thanks to a planned economy”. They glossed over the tens of millions of deaths and the untold misery of this brutal experiment. The Soas website boasts that the university is “synonymous with intellectual enquiry”. Only if they ignore members of their Marxist Society.
Trump's thumbs up to data
Donald Trump’s promise to put America first seems to be paying off, at least as far as investors are concerned. Consultancy FTI polled 100 global institutional investors with assets under management totalling nearly $7 trillion, with 87 per cent saying Trump had created business-friendly conditions, 84 per cent crediting him with boosting the US economy. However, just 29 per cent considered him successful in promoting global economic stability. The President would likely greet the first set of figures with a double thumbs up, and shrug at the latter.
ONS telecoms glitch
The ONS has admitted that it incorrectly measured the telecoms sector between 2010 and 2015, meaning that inflation may have been overstated and growth downplayed. While the ONS insists it doesn’t change the bottom line, wonks have been up in arms. BlackRock’s Rupert Harrison has been particularly vocal, claiming growth was undermeasured for five years. One reason for his anger is that during the period in question he was chief of staff to then-chancellor George Osborne.