Mr. Johnson, attending the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, says the coalition government needs to develop its ‘Norman Tebbit side’ — a reference to Margaret Thatcher’s enforcer on industrial matters — and raises three points he thinks call for its immediate attention :
- The first is the problem of high rates of personal taxation.
- He urges the Prime Minister to strengthen the legislation on industrial relations to hinder the calling of politically motivated strikes.
- He describes as ‘nonsense’ the claim of Transport Secretary Philip Hammond that a high-speed rail link will be an effective substitute for what he calls a ‘credible aviation strategy’, pointing out that European competitors to the London airports are already exploiting global markets.
Mr. Johnson, however, wants the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to address the three points he raises quickly. With statistics having just been published suggesting the economy might have stalled and the government being accused of lacking a strategy for growth, he explains, “On things like union law, aviation and on tax we need to send out very, very positive messages.”
He urges the Coalition’s leadership to follow the example of the Thatcher Administration of the 1980s (in which Norman Tebbit tackled the trade unions and Michael Heseltine addressed the need of industrial and commercial regeneration), indicating redevelopment in London’s East End such as Canary Wharf and the Docklands, projects that would never have come about “without inspired Tory leadership”. He regards his proposed new airport for London — in the Thames Estuary — as being in that tradition.Of the government’s plan for a high-speed railway link (as an alternative to developing London as an aviation hub) he says, “What nonsense. You can’t take a high-speed train to Beijing. We cannot go on shunting jobs overseas to other countries,” pointing out that French and German airports are already doing better than London’s in the Far East. In London in the past two years the Rail, Maritime & Transport Union (RMT) has called strikes several times and Mr. Johnson is keen to see legislation to curb politically motivated action : “This is vital because [...] with some union leaderships there is evidence of political decision-making and going for strikes that will damage the Coalition or a Conservative Mayor and we want to protect the majority of union members from capricious and vexatious strikes that are triggered by a minority. “So the 50-per-cent. threshold [of members needed for a strike] is the right way to go.” Although the Prime Minister seems to favour new laws on industrial relations, he would face opposition. Meanwhile the Chancellor last night told the conference at Davos that his budget in March would be full of measures aimed at reviving the British economy. “Our competitiveness has suffered a lost decade. That is why this Coalition will be as bold in promoting enterprise as we have been in dealing with the deficit. The ambition of my Budget will be to turn the tide on the forces of stagnation. The guiding principle will be : the future favours the bold.”