21 Nov 2011

Reggie Perrin boss and Beecroft – separated at birth?

It looks like we get the government’s employment strategy on Wednesday and the culmination of businessman Adrian Beecroft’s brief and lively engagement with frontline politics. Here are some of the comments on his report I’ve heard in the last few days:

Cabinet Minister: “the worst piece of work I have ever read.”

Government aide: “crap – supported by only one person in No. 10,” (Steve Hilton, allegedly).

Minister: “amazingly thin…no supporting evidence.”

I hear that one minister actually challenged Mr Beecroft in a Whitehall meeting about what evidence there was to back up his assertions and he said something back along the lines of “a life-time’s experience in business”.

There are strange echoes of ‘CJ’ in the novels and BBC comedy The Rise and Fall of Reggie Perrin – “I didn’t get where I am today, Reggie, by…” etc etc. (You can see a complete catalogue of CJ’s sayings here – my personal favourite is: “I didn’t get where I am today selling ice cream tasting of bookends, pumice stone and West Germany.”)

So what will be in the employment package? ‘Fire at will’ proposals have gone, but the CBI‘s suggestion of “protected conversations” is most definitely in. Employers will be able to raise sensitive issues about worker performance without legal comeback, but how much impact will that have on growth?

On the bigger policy picture, I hear the Quad (PM, DPM, Chancellor and Chief Secretary) is meeting this afternoon to sign off Autumn Statement numbers for the Office for Budget Responsibility – the Quad also met yesterday. There could then be changes within that cash envelope but the OBR needs to know the actual headline figures so it can publish its own growth forecasts etc on the same day as the Autumn Statement, a week tomorrow.

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