Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and the For the Many podcast with Jacqui Smith.
“Let’s hear it for the private sector”. Seven words you hear very rarely nowadays. The current narrative is that the state can and should provide us with everything – even to the extent of providing breakfast and lunch for Scottish schoolchildren.
It’s not just the state taking over the role of parenting. It is increasingly involving itself in aspects of our lives which only a few years ago we would have been horrified by.
I totally back many of the measures taken to halt the spread of Coronavirus, but in order for the rest of the population to buy into them, they have to seem reasonable.
Dare I say the Welsh government’s decision to ban alcohol from being served in pubs and restaurants at all times of the day is a measure that is completely unreasonable? Quite how having a glass of wine with your lunch in a restaurant makes you more likely to spread Coronavirous or contract it yourself only Mark Drakeford knows. I know Wales has a proud tradition of Calvinism, but even so…
Without the private sector, many of our most recent medical advances would have been made. John McDonnell wanted to have a state-run pharmaceutical industry. We will never know how it would have been able to do what private sector drug companies are doing in terms of inventing Covid vaccines.
It’s certainly true that the private sector is often the worst advert for itself, given some of its more vocal adherents are not exactly an example to the rest of society, but I guess that’s human nature for you. The greed exhibited by too many of our highly paid executives does little to restore people’s faith.
Yet this week there has been a move by Tesco which rather restores one’s faith in big conglomerates. It is to return more than half a billion pounds they received in business rates relief to the Treasury.
I just hope that this is redistributed to very hard-pressed local councils. Morrisons quickly followed suit, and I suspect the rest of the big supermarkets will, in the end, grudgingly do so too.
Saisnbury’s say they won’t (at the time of writing), but it’s difficult to justify huge payouts in dividends if a similar amount is being received in business support from the Government in one form or another.
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Talking of people who give the private sector a bad name, let’s have a word about Sir Philip Green. I was the Jeremy Vine TV show on Wednesday talking about the demise of his Arcadia group and Debenhams, along with another guest, Becca Hutson, who seriously suggested that it was up to the Government to bail them out, and it was all the Government’s fault anyway because of Covid.
Seriously. She clearly hasn’t been reading the business pages of the newspapers over the last three years. Had she done so, she’d have been aware that the demise of these businesses had been predicted for a long time. While Covid has no doubt hastened their fall, there’s little doubt they were doomed anyway. Neither business had embraced online shopping in the way that their competitors have, and have suffered the consequences.
If I’m honest, I have a teency bit of sympathy for them in, that ten years ago, would I have imagined that I too would be buying clothes, suits and shoes on the internet? No. But I do.
To think the Government should become the employer of last resort is the economics of the mad house. Yes, I feel incredibly sorry for anyone who loses their job, but if the state comes to the rescue of Top Shop or Debenhams, then why didn’t it for BHS or Woolworths? Or countless other businesses.
Ah, they say, but the banks were bailed out, so what’s different about shops? Well, everything. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the consequences for the economy if the banks had all been allowed to collapse like dominos. That is not true of the retail sector. Business is all about strategy and risk. Get the strategy wrong and take the wrong risk, and you become another corporate casualty.
That’s what Sir Philip Green has done, and it is sadly his staff and customers who are suffering the consequences. And, all the while, he sits on his £100 million Monaco-based yacht and gets through the remaining £900 million of his personal fortune.
While there is no legal way he can be forced to compensate any of his employees, surely anyone with even a small heart would make some sort of effort to alleviate the misery of those who are about to lose their employment? I’m not holding my breath, though. He’s not that sort of man, as was clear from the evidence he gave to a select committee not that long ago. A more repulsive human being I have rarely seen.
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Back in 1997, I did something mad and opened a specialist political bookshop in Westminster called Politico’s. It soon established itself as a meeting place and event venue, too.
Seven years later I closed it, and took it online, due to a combination of the advent of Amazon, a huge rent increase by our landlords, the Crown Prosecution Service and the congestion charge. But I sold the online business a couple of years later.
This week, I have resurrected the name and the online shop at http://www.politicos.co.uk. The intention is for it to become a one stop shop for all sorts of political items and ephemera, not just books. I hope that ConHome readers will be regular customers.