Eddie Barnes: Both sides of the political spectrum join together between the covers
WHEN the political class heads off for its annual break, usually one or two books pop up on their recliners. This year one book being touted is The New Few.
There is, it argues, a new oligarchy running Britain; those wealthy few who have claimed power and money for themselves and used it to detach themselves from the rest of society (witness the flotilla of vast luxury yachts which are being parked in the Thames this week as Olympic bases for the super-rich). The rest of us, excluded, can only look on with increasing resentment. So far, so topical. What is of interest is its author. This isn’t a left-wing polemic - it is written by Ferdinand Mount, the former head of Margaret Thatcher’s Downing Street policy unit.
The trauma of the West’s economic slump has prompted one of those occasions when people at both wings of the political spectrum end up joining up round the back. With the salve of cheap credit now used up, there is nothing to ease the underlying frictions that lie beneath. And so both Left and Right wingers are fretting over what’s been exposed; a society where the gap between rich and poor has grown more rapidly than in any other advanced economy to the point that it now stands second only to the USA. Today, further evidence of economic gloom can be expected if new GDP figures confirm that Britain’s recession is continuing onwards. While the recession goes on, so the desire for a different path which shares the ever-decreasing spoils more fairly becomes ever more attractive.
Mount’s book may show that the Right is thinking hard about solutions (such as giving shareholders a real say on executive pay). But this week has provided further evidence at Westminster that it is Ed Miliband rather than David Cameron who is exploiting the situation more effectively. Yesterday, he usurped Mr Cameron to be first to meet president Francois Hollande at the Élysée Palace where the two Left wingers were able to reinforce their central point that “austerity economics” was failing – all this as Andy Coulson, Mr Cameron’s former communications director, was being charged over phone-hacking.
Today, the Labour leader takes in Edinburgh as part of a trip around the UK as he calls for “real change” in the way politics is delivered. Mr Miliband has been fortunate – the election of Mr Hollande being a case in point – but he has shaped his own luck as well; exemplified by his conference speech last year calling for a more responsible capitalism. The rewards are being shown in the polls.
True, it is always easier to do so in opposition, when details can be avoided, than in government, where details are all-comsuming. But Mr Cameron needs to find the plausible voice that shows it isn’t just Mr Miliband who is on the case. A start would be to ensure that, if it isn’t already, Mount’s book is on his reading list this summer.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 16 C
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Wind direction: North
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
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