What are we to make of the fact that No.10 gave the thumbs-up to Vince Cable’s
bizarre anti-capitalist rhetoric today? “Capitalism takes no prisoners and it kills competition where it can,” he fumed – and you can argue that, technically, he is paraphrasing
Adam Smith. But he has been in politics long enough to know what signal his speech sent out (and the
it would trigger). Mood music counts for a lot in politics, and in business. And the mood music from this government sounds like a bunch of politicians happy to tax the bejesus out of
the high-paid - regarding them as ATM machines to be raided, rather than wealth creators to be welcomed. It's time to ask what harm all this posturing is doing.
There was a line in Clegg’s speech
on Monday that, at the time, I
dismissed as playing to the gallery. But in the light of Comrade Cable’s attacks, it’s worth looking at again:
"We all read the headlines about benefit fraud. We all agree it's wrong when people help themselves to benefits they shouldn't get. But when the richest people in the country dodge their
tax bills that is just as bad. Both come down to stealing money from your neighbours."
"The power grab implicit in the latest HMRC proposals – currently under consultation – to receive all salaries direct from employers, process all deductions and then hand to
us what remains, should worry anyone who values freedom."
his 2008 speech
It may well be that Steve Hilton thinks this anti-capitalist rhetoric is cleverly counter-intuitive and good for the brand, making him happy to approve these Lib Dem speeches. But I fear he
underestimates just how important it is that all government ministers, especially the business secretary, defend capitalism. Mood music matters. And careless talk costs jobs.