So, just as Mr Balls attempts to give the impression that he has listened to the public outcry against his Vetting and Barring Scheme (aka the paedophile-presumption scheme), and adjusted criteria so that now only 9 million well-meaning individuals have to clear their names before they work with children, it appears today that the Equalities Bill that caused such friction between Miss Harman and Mr Mandelson has been similarly ‘watered down’.
Is this a Damascene moment, you might wonder, a realisation that institutionalising racism and/or gender discrimination does not combat racism and/or gender discrimination? Well, err, not exactly. You see, it appears that Miss Harman’s scheme will still go ahead, but will apply mostly to big businesses, corporations and the like, the City and finance sectors.
As first glance this sounds great – how generous, giving smaller businesses (a species under threat) a break from having to prove to bureaucrats hundreds of miles away that they’re not either racist of chauvinist. Except…
Well, nowadays it seems that all we have is big business. London and its finance sector is quite demonstrably the prized asset of the national economy, the engine that keeps the supplicant provinces above the poverty line, whilst multinational corporations dominate our local townscapes, turning them into clone towns and ghost towns. So-called free marketeers campaign endlessly for the right of big business to distort markets for their own benefit, free from government interference, and by and large they have found friends within the socialist New Labour Party. All the while, small local businesses drown in a sea of debt, paying taxes to keep afloat banks who refuse to lend back to them, whilst well-meaning idiots in SW1 dream up ever more costly and time-consuming red tape and regulation to eat into their profit margins.
Now someone more cynical than myself (they do exist!) might suggest that this is not really surprising. After all, socialism not only craves big-business, it positively depends on it. The left love big business, and they love it because big business is the vehicle through which the doctrines and agendas of the state are most effectively delivered. The apparent paradox of a modern socialist Party employing a neo-liberal economic model is in reality no such thing, for the two actually reflect each other; if neo-liberal economic systems tend toward monopoly (and, granted, there is debate on this), then this dominance sits well with the modern-day left because it mirrors the state authoritarianism with which it has already become comfortable. As such, the small businesses that cannot be relied upon to effectively deliver such things as maternity leave or holiday pay are a festering thorn in the skins of the left, and its desperate attempt to negotiate more favourable terms of surrender for the increasing body of workers now forced into waged servitude thanks to the state’s ongoing infatuation with… that’s right, big business.
So when Miss Harman announces that smaller business will be spared such legislation, pernicious as it is, don’t be tempted to think she’s had a change of heart, and sympathises with the plight of the small business owner doing his or her best to keep things afloat – ask instead why small business is finding things so tough in the first place.