Is John Hutton an alien from another planet? He’s always looked that way to me. But no, he’s not an alien from another planet – though to my knowledge, if he were an alien he could continue to be a Labour MP.
So, is he a labour man? I give you, today’s Morning Star editorial by way of an answer:
(Thursday 29 May 2008)
AFTER John Hutton’s swivel-eyed claim on Thursday that employment rights should exist solely to facilitate “competitiveness” and profit, it is hard to find a better response than UCATT leader Alan Ritchie’s comment that the ultra-Blairite minister has “completely lost touch with reality.”
Even as Labour runs to the unions again to prevent the party sliding into bankruptcy, while its support among working-class people sinks into the abyss, market fanatics like Hutton are still trying to pretend that big business works in everyone’s interest, rather than just that of the boss classes.
Mr Ritchie has pointed out that “it is exactly this kind of subservience to business which is causing Labour to haemorrhage grass-roots support” – and subservience is just what it is.
The Huttons of this world have swallowed Thatcherite dogma hook, line and sinker.
They genuinely believe that a return to a Victorian-style non-regulation of business will enable businesses to “create more and more jobs” to the benefit of all.
Has he been paying attention? During the past decade, companies have viewed their “human resources” as the very first thing to face the chop if profits and dividends need boosting. While executive pay has soared, jobs have been outsourced to low-wage countries and British workplaces closed down.
Britain has some of the lowest levels of workers’ rights and workplace regulation in western Europe, but this will never be enough for the vested interests of fat cats, for whom putting a protective guard on a meat-slicer is an intolerable “burden” which prevents them being even richer than they already are.
New Labour has an amazing habit of taking such whingeing at face value, deluded in its belief that bosses are some all-knowing higher order of life. Compared to the likes of John Hutton, maybe they are.
“Mr Hutton seems to have had a moral bypass when it comes to workers’ rights,” is the observation of GMB leader Paul Kenny – and, looking at the rest of the Business Secretary’s miserable speech to the Fabians, it is crystal clear that the obligation to provide workers with a safe and secure environment is not on his moral compass.
“Having a multiplicity of employment rights does not amount to a great deal if you can’t get a job in the first place,” is his sage conclusion, which is rather like observing that the Fire Brigade is of no use to the homeless.
So – unless the bailiffs have marched off with all the office furniture by then – new Labour looks set to take the party into the next election with a firm pledge to make Britain a front-runner in the “race to the bottom” for workers’ pay and conditions. As long as there are jobs of some kind, who cares if they are badly paid, insecure or exploitative?
This mindless exaltation of “the market” must stop, or both the Labour Party and any concept of a fairer Britain are finished. Britain’s bosses may have “welcomed” Thursday’s speech, but they are already scuttling back to their natural Tory allies.
It is up to the remaining decent MPs and activists in the Labour Party and the wider labour movement to reverse this suicidal folly.