Political recovery depends on economic recovery. Dave has to ditch “Little Europe”
written by: Nick Wood
Like his idol Tony Blair before him, David Cameron's watchword is modernisation. Well, there is one thing in need of a major overhaul - and that is the British economy.
Reportedly, Dave is beginning to wake up to the scale of the threat to his grip on power.
The polls are regularly giving Labour a double-digit lead and the newspapers (and some Tory MPs) are openly speculating about whether Boris Johnson, basking happily in the Olympic limelight, would prove a better bet as PM.
Worst of all, the economy, which under Cameron's political plan A was meant to be recovering right now, remains mired in recession. Olympic gold may be cheering up the nation, but all those office TV screens tuned to the Games are doing nothing for national output.
The American locomotive is still stuck in second gear and as for Europe, collectively our biggest trading partner, it is going backwards in a hurry.
Cameron's problem is simply stated but fiendishly hard to solve. Without economic recovery there can be no recovery in his fortunes or those of his party.
This is why all the talk of a change of personnel at the top, be it Boris or anyone else, is a distraction from the main event (which is not to say it won't happen).
While the cheers of the crowds ring our for Jessica Ennis, Andy Murray and Co, Cameron has been calling urgent Whitehall meetings with Ministers and officials focused on findings ways of boosting Britain's faltering enterprise economy.
Potential answers here are not hard to find: cut business and payroll taxes sharply, slash red tape and scrap employment laws that deter small and medium businesses from expanding and taking on new staff.
Dave doesn't need more meetings. He just needs to get on with the job.
But there is a deeper and bigger question the PM needs to address if he wants to see the British economy flourish again - it is called the European question.
For 50 years, the British establishment has regarded the EU (or the Common Market as it was once known) as our economic salvation.
Only by engaging more deeply in Europe would Britain gain the export markets, capital investment, and technical know-how to enable it to compete in the modern world.
Traditional British markets in Commonwealth countries or the developing world, even the US, were relegated to the status of also-rans amid the enthusiasm for our European destiny. As John Major put it, Britain's place is at the heart of Europe.
Not any more it ain't. Choked by the death grip of the Euro, the Mediterranean economies of Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece are in freefall. This summer (and I have seen it) smart European resorts once thronged by the wealthy resemble ghost towns. France is teetering on the brink of recession and under the ludicrous socialist Francois Hollande is heading for serious trouble. Even Germany is struggling, with more and more of its people rejecting the Euro and demanding the return of the D-Mark.
This is the strategic question Cameron needs to address - and now. He needs to make the simple point that in the long run, British business has to abandon its myopic obsession with European markets and engage with the wider world - the world of the Chinas and the Indias where new trading links can generate the growth and jobs the country so badly needs.
The EU accounts for around 500 million people in a world of 7 billion. It is a mark of shame not pride that 40-50 per cent of our trade is still conducted with what will become over the next 10-20 years an economic backwater.
Cameron's cheerleaders (he still has a few) like to claim that although their hero might be prone to overdo the "chillaxing" in normal times, he is a good in a crisis.
Well, Dave has a crisis on his hands right now. And once the Olympic party and inevitable hangover is over, it will be staring him in the face.
Supply side reforms to boost small and medium firms are an necessary first step to getting the economy moving.
But unless he is prepared to paint a bigger picture of Britain's economic destiny, one centered on the wider world rather than the corner shop of Little Europe, UK economic recovery will prove elusive.
To be fair to Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague, the Government has been making noises and taking some steps in this direction.
But the time is fast approaching when Cameron has to dramatise the issue. He has to break away from the old-fashioned mindset that drearily warns that squillions of British jobs would be put at risk if we left the EU. This is old speak (a la Ted Heath or John Major) not new speak. Or to use Dave's favourite language, this is reactionary not modern.
And he has to say this kind of thing loud and clear as he relaunches his premiership in the autumn under bold new colours.
The truth is that squillions of jobs will be lost if we stick with the failed architecture of the EU. To adapt a favoured Brussels metaphor, the European train is heading for the buffers.
We need to jump clear now and rediscover the global markets in Asia, the Americas and Africa that brought us so much prosperity in the 18th, 19th and, until we took a wrong turn, the 20th Century.
Image(s) courtesy of: Daily Mail