David Blackburn

Gabbing about growth

Gabbing about growth
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Growth is the word on Tory lips at present. David Cameron responded to Andrew Tyrie’s criticism when he arrived in Manchester yesterday evening, saying that the government has “an incredibly active growth strategy”. And there has been some ‘action on growth’ in the last 24 hours. The right-to-buy is being resuscitated. And the coalition has announced that it will release thousands of acres of publicly owned land to build 100,000 houses and support 200,000 jobs by 2015. The plan will be paid for by selling houses later down the line; the government hopes that the taxpayer will make a profit under this scheme.

This reform might stoke the already over-heated fire between the government and the National Trust over planning reforms. Francis Maude, regarded as a zealot when it comes to delivering planning reform, has told the Independent on Sunday that his opponents are talking “bollocks”. His tone suggests that the government is provoking a spat with the National Trust – an organisation that, rightly or wrongly, reeks of vested Tory interests. The battle allows the coalition to clothe itself in radical garb and say that it is “governing together in the national interest” – to revive the phrase from the coalition’s infancy.

Meanwhile, the government has again pledged to cut business regulations in a bid to stimulate growth. James Forsyth reveals that Lord Young Graffham – Lady Thatcher’s Mr Fix it – is returning to government to oversee these changes. It remains to be seen if he’ll examine environmental regulation and taxation, which several Labour MPs have identified as a serious impediment to jobs and investment in industry.

These moves are welcome, but some backbenchers will worry that they remain piecemeal. There is little sign, for instance, of a grand supply-side revolution to stimulate the economy. John Redwood fears that “the Lib Dem influence” will stunt such an approach permanently. Redwood thinks that new, well capitalised investment banks lending to “worthwhile projects” is the best and most likely option in the circumstances.