Employment rights will be battle line at next election
The Guardian reports that Ken Clarke has softened Tory opposition to the Lisbon treaty. One suspects that many Conservatives are secretly not wanting an early election so that Lisbon can be ratified after an Irish referendum.
But much more interesting is his strong reiteration of Conservative plans to tear up the Social Chapter, and repatriate powers to regulate the labour market. If it is said by Clarke – the leading Tory Europhile – then it cannot be dismissed as a pre-election gesture to the Tory/UKIP fringe. It also looks like they have thought about the detail of how this might be done.
That will mean that there is a clear dividing line at the next election. Even for Labour’s most ardent deregulators, the relatively modest gains of the the Social Chapter – equal rights for part-timers, unpaid parental leave, emergency leave for carers, information and consultation rights etc – are settled and not seen as controversial. Nor do I think the bigger employers’ organisations would really want these reopened.