A Beecroft in their bonnet
The renewed momentum behind the Beecroft review of employment rights is a sign that the Government is finally taking seriously the necessity of communicating its concern with growth. Of course it is nonsense to suggest – as many on the Left have recently – that austerity and growth are in some way mutually exclusive. This Government, as I pointed out in the Guardian political podcast last week, is not ambivalent about growth but rather believes, fervently, that austerity is a precursor for it.
Either way, Beecroft is back on the agenda and I think Conservatives should be much more wary than we have been of embracing it. Nick Denys of Platform 10 has already laid out the presentational issues and I agree with every word. In a period of terrifying uncertainty for millions the message that the Conservative Party wants to make it easier to sack you is at best callous and at worst sociopathic. The striving class – those very voters that the Conservative Party will need if it is to ever win a majority – will not take kindly to being told that it’s their pesky (and minimal) job security that’s getting in the way of growth.
And it’s not just how it looks that’s the issue here. Britain already has a hyper-flexible labour market and the least employment protection of any OECD nation. As many Conservatives note, in defence of Beecroft, we also have relatively low productivity. It strikes me as a difficult case to make that all that is required for growth is a further stripping away of employment protection – that fewer unfair dismissal tribunals will render Britain prosperous.
Of course there are reforms that need to be made. And the burden upon small and new businesses is unarguably excessive. But Beecroft is, to steal Nick’s phrase, a ‘toxic’ piece of messaging about a minor and likely ineffective set of tinkerings.