One of Margaret Thatcher’s most lauded - and most hated – achievements was taking on and defanging the unions. But it seems many of her acolytes think she didn’t go far enough. The Tories promised more limits in their manifesto and the new policies are top of new business secretary Sajid Javid’s agenda.
‘We’ve already made clear in terms of strike laws that there will be some significant changes,’ Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning. He repeated the manifesto pledges: a minimum turnout of 50% for a strike vote to be valid, a minimum of 40% of those entitled to vote saying yes for strikes in ‘essential public services’ to be legal and lifting the ban on using agency staff for cover during action.
Javid, who had a portrait of Thatcher hanging in his office during his short-lived tenure as culture secretary, was vague about his other plans, only promising to ‘help push employment even higher towards full employment’ and to ‘take a fresh look at deregulation’. He also denied headlines claiming the government had 'gone to war' with the BBC.
But the ex-investment banker’s libertarian bent will be manna to many a businessperson’s ears. ‘I believe passionately in free enterprise,’ Javid, who bigged up having grown up above a shop, said. ‘What I do know as a principle is that sometimes governments, when they create new rules and regulations, they actually make things worse.’
They can make things better too, of course. But many companies will be now shaking their heads at the prospect of the in/out EU referendum. Javid, who would only confirm it would happen ‘before the end of 2017’, claimed ‘the uncertainty around the EU… is not something we’ve created.’
He also argued businesses supported ending that uncertainty – which would obviously be a whole lot less without a vote that could go either way (especially as we won’t know whether to trust those pesky opinion polls).