Forget rights and fairness, there’s a recession on!
It’s the new corporate catch-22 and you better get used to it because you’ll hear it a lot over the next few months. I’ve come across it twice in the last two days. It runs like this: “we’re entering a recession after a severe financial crisis – this isn’t the time to start cracking down on tax avoidance/improving rights at work/strengthening regulation on health and safety/requiring anything more from business on climate change etc. etc.” This was the gist of the Tory intervention yesterday on the agency workers deal and a very senior accountant used it today on me when I suggested that now was the time to get rid of the non-domicile rule.
The sharp-eyed among you may have spotted the catch by recognising the very close resemblance to something we used to hear with tedious regularity until only a few weeks ago: “the UK has enjoyed a decade of uninterrupted growth, we mustn’t put that at risk by cracking down on tax avoidance/improving rights at work/strengthening regulation on health and safety/requiring anything more from business on climate change etc. etc.”
In short, we can’t do anything to improve fairness in the UK for risk of creating a recession but then again we can’t do anything to improve fairness in the UK for risk of not escaping from the recession.
The answer to this slippery stuff is simple: we listened to you bleat on about how flexible labour markets and corporate privilege had made UK plc into a light unto the nations and now we’ve tanked. It’s time to shut up and let us try another approach. I would really like to believe that we won’t hear the corporate catch-22 from a minister soon. I give it about a week.
UPDATE: Make that three times in two days: I just heard Andrew Shrimpton on Newsnight saying now is not the time to regulate hedge funds (of all things) because we need all that expertise and innovation to get us out of the recession! That really nicks the custard cream. By the way, Mr. Shrimpton apparently used to be in charge of regulating hedgies at the FSA, so it’s no wonder he says some odd things, that must have been like herding hyenas with a poorly trained chihuahua.