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David Cameron to invoke the spirit of Thatcher in challenging the vested interests in the unions - and the big banks, with a bank tax

Picture 20 Yesterday shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers labelled the strikes by British Airways cabin crew (starting today) and the potential action by RMT signal workers as a "Spring of Discontent".

David Cameron will use the same turn of phrase when he addresses activists in Wandsworth this morning, where he will also invoke the spirit of Thatcher in his determination also to take on vested interests:

“Margaret Thatcher’s government was defined by taking the side of the people against the powerful, the vested interest - those whose survival depended on keeping things as they were. Take her union reforms. She recognised that as long there was a closed shop and no proper ballots, power would lie with the big union barons. They would continue to hold governments to ransom, to drag this country down, and to bully their members. So she took them on. She broke the stranglehold of the union barons and gave every worker an equal right and equal say. Vested interests broken - people empowered."

BA-ad Launching this poster, again linking Gordon Brown to the BA strike (click to enlarge it), he will add:

"Once again, under Gordon Brown the vested interests triumph and the people lose out. And now we see it again with the British Airways strike. This threatens the future of one of Britain's greatest companies along with thousands of jobs. But will the Prime Minister come out in support of those people who would cross the picket line? No - because the Unite union is bankrolling the Labour party.”

However, the vested interests he wants to take on do not stop at the unions. The BBC business editor Robert Peston blogged late last night that the Tory leader regards big banks as falling into that category as well.

Accordingly, Mr Cameron will be announcing that a Conservative government would bring in a new bank levy "to pay back tax payers for the support they gave and to protect them in the future". Furthermore, this would be introduced even if other countries decide against pressing ahead with similar plans. Peston adds, however:

"The Tories have had "conversations abroad in the past week" which have convinced the Tory leader and the shadow chancellor George Osborne that they would be in "good international company" if they were to launch such a tax. Second, the Tories are at pains to point out that if in the end other countries were not to move ahead with a bank tax, they would reduce the burden of any tax they chose to introduce here."

I'll add further details of the announcement when I have them later.

9.45am update: Here is precisely what David Cameron said on the bank levy:

Picture 19

"With the Budget this week, this is no time to shy away from confronting some of the biggest vested interests in our country – the banks. We had the biggest bank bail-out in the world. We can’t just carry on as if nothing happened. In America, President Obama has said he will get taxpayers back every cent they put in.  Why should it be any different here? So I can announce today that a Conservative government will introduce a new bank levy to pay back tax payers for the support they gave and to protect them in the future. No, it won’t be popular in every part of the City. But I believe it’s fair and it’s necessary."

The unions and banks aside, Mr Cameron cited other examples of vested interests, some of which would rather preserve the status quo and block progress as envisaged by the Conservatives, such as some of the policing establishment, the educational establishment and certain local authorities. He suggested that in some of these areas it "may mean a fight" but he pledged to be strong and  resolute in taking on those who block progress.

10.30am update: Click here to watch a clip of that key passage on the bank levy. And here is a longer clip, introduced by David Cameron, about challenging the vested interests.

Jonathan Isaby


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