Cameron’s new year’s speech was a good indicator of how the Eurozone crisis – aka the take-over of Europe by the ECB and the IMF – will look like in the UK.
Eurozone countries have essentially been left with two options in order to boost their bond markets, increase confidence and reel in the debt they need in order to allow the ruling classes to survive i economic terms. There options are to either implement austerity policies now, or wait until the IMF forces them to do so.
Cameron’s UK, spoken of warmly by Mario Draghi in his recent interview in the Financial Times, is excelling in proving to investors that it has what it takes, which translates as the willingness to cash in its assets in times of need. These assets are on the one hand the welfare state (schools, universities, prisons, the NHS, the remnants of the housing stock) but also workers’ rights as a thing in itself.
The two sides of the ‘bureaucratic red tape’ which has been so lamented in the tabloid press, the new ‘politics gone too far’ (taking its seat proudly alongside ‘feminism gone too far’ and the like) are Planning Law and Health and Safety legislation.
We have already seen what attacks on planning law look like. The first elements of planning law came in after WWII as a means to create green belts, a small protection for not only the ‘environment’, but also rural life as it stood, against the expanding forces of urbanisation. While the eviction of the Dale Farm travellers’ site was implemented under planning law, the government has made little attempt to conceal the fact that the changes being made to current planning law will be there to encourage and assist councils in their attempts to not only evict other traveller sites around the country, but also to rapaciously hand those sites over to property developers without the prying inclusion of law or regulation.
The other side to the attack on red tape will be on Health and Safety law, which was originally brought in as protection for workers under the Wilson and Callaghan government in the late 1970s. Through continued membership of the EU (also established under that government’s referendum), the UK was forced to abide by the working directives, themselves based on the European Coal and Steel Community proposals dating back to 1952.
These regulations have indeed been, in Cameron’s words, ‘an albatross round the neck of British businesses’, because they force employers to raise fixed capital costs in order to maintain their status as legal entities. This would usually drive wages down – except the minimum wage prevents this from occurring, as does strong unionisation. Instead, industrialists have to put their prices up – and this is partly what forced industry out of the UK. When commentators complain that in the 1970s the ‘unions got too strong’ etc, what they mean is that workers decided they would rather be healthy and safe than protectionists.
Administration, as has been pointed out on this blog before, is not in itself a bad thing – and while laws and regulations which have been won by the workers’ movement come under attack, this is a time perhaps when we should be proud of, and defend, the ‘red’ in the red tape.