Monday News Review

Leaders pitch to business

Ed Miliband and David Cameron will trade blows at the Confederation for British Industry (CBI) today, as both men make their pitch to the country’s business leaders. Mr Miliband will argue that the Tories have failed to understand the lessons of the financial crisis and are devoid of plans to stimulate growth in the economy. The crisis has led to realisation among Labour figures that government must support enterprise more robustly, Mr Miliband will admit. “Without profound change in the way we manage our economy, we are at risk of, at best, sleepwalking back to an economy riddled with the same risks as we saw before the recession hit,” he will say. “The way to support business and ensure a return to prosperity is to tackle these risks, not ignore them.” Mr Cameron will use his speech to promise a tougher competition regime to help small companies break into existing markets and the creation of ‘technology innovation centres’ so British companies can be at the forefront of innovation. –

THE GOVERNMENT should take a more active role in the private sector, Ed Miliband will say today, as he warns against returning to “business as usual” in the wake of the slump. Speaking at the CBI’s annual conference, Miliband will argue that government should not shy away from pursuing a policy of industrial interventionism. “What it means to be pro-business in the 2010s is different to what it meant in the 1990s. It means more than just getting out of the way,” he is expected to say. “Government should not be afraid to provide support to business that the market will not offer. That is the way to rebalance our economy.” Miliband will also claim the government has become obsessed with spending cuts at the expense of an economic strategy, a charge the Prime Minister will try to deflect with a series of pro-growth announcements to day. – City AM

Nobel Prize-winner questions Osborne

There are particular concerns about where the private sector jobs will come from for the 490,000 public-sector workers who are expected to lose their jobs. The chancellor, George Osborne, was yesterday accused by Britain’s new Nobel Prize-winning economist, Christopher Pissarides, of exaggerating the risk of a Greek-style economic crisis affecting the UK economy. In an article for the Sunday Mirror, the professor warned that Osborne’s swingeing cuts package was taking “unnecessary risks” with the economy. “It is important to avoid this ‘sovereign risk’. But in my view Britain is a long way from such a threat, and the chancellor has exaggerated the sovereign risks threatening the country. Unemployment is high and job vacancies few. By taking the action that the chancellor outlined in his statement, this situation might well become worse.” – The Guardian

Writing in yesterday’s Sunday Mirror Christopher Pissarides accuses the Chancellor of exaggerating the risk of a government bond crisis like Greece’s. If Britain did face a bond crisis it would be very serious: But in my view Britain is a long way from such a threat, and the Chancellor has exaggerated the sovereign risks that are threatening the country. He also makes an important point about the way the government is ”taking risks with the economic recovery.” This point is being rather over-simplified in most of the coverage of this article and which follows on from a rather too simple version of the economic debate. Prof Pissarides isn’t arguing simply that the cuts will throw us into new recession. The debate isn’t just between those who think austerity is the road to recovery and those who think it will cause disaster. – Liberal Conspiracy

Nice isn’t enough

Last week’s clash in the Commons between George Osborne and Johnson was Competence vs Character. The Chancellor came across as a bit squeaky, partisan and too clever by half. He must learn to pause, or the entire Chamber will be gasping for air waiting for him to breathe. (As it was, we survived only because he had to stop frequently to drink from his glass of water.) But we had no doubt that he knew what he was talking about. His shadow came across as relaxed, witty and making it up as he went along. We have been here before. For all of the 1980s, in fact, when Labour MPs were regarded as nicer people but clueless, while the Conservatives were hard-hearted but doing what had to be done. That would be a prism through which David Cameron and his Chancellor would be happy to have us see the next five years. It could work better for them this time, though, because they have the Liberal Democrats on board, which means that they have some nice people co-opted to front up some of the harder decisions that they feel bound to take. – The Independent

Voting starts for Unite

Members of the country’s biggest trade union will begin voting tomorrow to choose a new leader in an election that could have profound consequences for the looming battle between the government and the nation’s workforce over its spending cuts. The Labour-affiliated Unite will begin receiving ballot papers in what could fundamentally shift the political centre ground of the trade union movement. Unions have already backed industrial action to fight the government’s planned cuts. But the Trades Union Congress is trying to delay angry confrontations in a bid to win over support from the public once the axe starts to fall. The Unite leadership battle will help dictate the timetable, as the frontrunners are split over the central issue of strike action. Three assistant general secretaries of Unite and a rank-and-file activist are standing to become general secretary of the 1.5 million-strong union, with the result due in a month’s time. The favourite is Len McCluskey, an assistant general secretary, the candidate on the left who has promised to unite the union, fight the cuts and regain public sympathy for industrial action. – The Guardian

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