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Today, Osborne wants tough new strike laws. Yesterday, he wanted smaller wind subsidies. The Chancellor's fightback continues (but new borrowing figures disappoint)

By Paul Goodman
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George Osborne was famously "shocked" by the revelation that some rich people have complex arrangements that enable them to avoid tax, and this morning he is reported to be "furious" about the PCS's Olympics-related strike.

The Daily Mail reports today that he wants "tough new strike laws to prevent militant unions  holding Britain to ransom" - "immediate legislation to impose a minimum turnout – possibly 40 per cent – on strike ballots in order to protect the economy". It "could be introduced as early as September.

It wasn't clear yesterday, over his row with Ed Davey over wind power subsidies, what the conclusion would be, since David Cameron and Nick Clegg "have been unable to strike a compromise".

However, the paper claims that the Prime Minister is as determined as the Chancellor "to press ahead with reforms following a wave of public sector strikes over spending cuts, pay and pensions". Vince Cable, however, "is still understood to be opposed to any tightening of the strike laws", and Norman Lamb is unpersuaded.

Francis Maude has been very cautious about new clampdowns on strikes to date, partly because he wants to keep more moderate unions divided from more extreme ones, and believes that fresh measures could unite them.

The Mail's leader points out that the PCS walkout won the support of "only 11 per cent of the membership – a wafer-thin majority of the 20 per cent who bothered to turn out".  New laws to impose a turnout threshold would be more than justified.

As I wrote yesterday about the wind subsidies row, the Chancellor's leadership ambitions will want to march in step with the instincts of Conservative MPs.  These are under pressure: bad borrowing figures were announced yesterday.

Cynics will note the happy timing, at least for Mr Osborne, of his plan for tough new strike laws apparently being briefed to the Mail - thus ensuring that at least one right-of-centre paper gave less prominence to those figures than might otherwise have been the case.


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