Buccaneering, deal making and democracy: Cameron at the CBI

By Jill Segger
November 20, 2012

“A buccaneering, deal making, hungry spirit”. These are the qualities which our Prime Minister advocated in his speech to the CBI recently (19 November 2012).

We should never be surprised to find a politician playing to their audience. But this was a shocking performance by a man who has no experience of want or vulnerability and appears unable to think beyond a blinkered concept of profit or to understand the processes of democracy.

His address was filled with the kind of buzz words which are supposed to dull our critical faculties. We are encouraged to believe that anything to which this go-getting terminology is applied will be characterised by meaningful change and activity and that to oppose, or even to question, is to embrace sclerosis. It is the language of people who have not grasped that motion is not the same thing as progress, that ends can never justify means and that one man's red tape may be another woman's very survival.

Here are a few of the phrases Cameron employed to tickle the well-fed bellies of his corporate audience:

“The Cabinet I chair is now a Growth Cabinet”.

“You need us to be tough. To be radical. To be fast.”

“You need a Government that is tough; that can take the big, difficult decisions where they really matter.”

“In this global race, you are quick or you are dead”.

This is the language of ruthless self-interest and, it should be said, of a lamentable failure to understand what good business people have always known: that justly treated workers who feel secure will help a business to prosper and that a society in which the rights of the least powerful are not sacrificed to a narrow definition of 'growth' achieved at the greatest possible speed, is far more likely to produce a sustainable and equitable prosperity.

The means to Cameron's ends include: Cutting back on judicial reviews. Reducing government consultations. Streamlining European legislation. Stopping the 'gold-plating' of legislation at home. (Any definitions of 'gold-plated' as distinct from democratic legislation?)
"Calling time" on Equality Impact Assessments.

He pressed all the buttons of a particularly English form of prejudice – the knee-jerkery of that inchoate 'stout yeoman' fantasy which sees any restriction as an insult to freedom. Such wilful misunderstanding of what John Rawls described as the “duty of governments to adjudicate where interests collide”, chooses to represent the legislation, scrutiny and accountability which are indispensable to democracy as the saloon-bar bogeymen of 'red tape' and 'bureaucracy'.

“Dotting all the Is and crossing the Ts” which the Prime Minister dismisses with such throwaway contempt may sometimes go too far. But is is more likely to be the minutiae of justice. If you think that the democrat should always face down the buccaneer, it is time to make your voice heard.


© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. See: http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/TQig/Jill-Segger You can follow Jill on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/quakerpen

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