Poor (maybe not so poor) Sir Richard Branson is the target of Tory MP, Kwasi Kwarteng’s injudicious comments today. Sir Richard gave evidence at the hearing in front of the Commons Transport Committee, and the thrust of his complaint was that the government had not followed its own rules when it awarded the franchise to FirstGroup.
You may recall that Kwarteng was one of the five MPs who wrote a report about how the welfare state had sapped the strength and vigour of the British economy. “We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor,” they said. “Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor.” One should bear in mind that these people are seeking re-election in less than two years, which either indicates that they are in very safe Tory seats or politically inept.
In a recent interview, Kwarteng told the Standard: “We need to look beyond Europe for economic success. We should be starting now. There is no reason why we can’t be pushing ahead with a lot of this. [London mayor] Boris [Johnson] when he talks about big infrastructure projects, deregulation and cutting taxes, is absolutely on the money.” He added: “There is definitely a new right, which is much more international in its focus. The old Tory right are a busted flush.” Paradoxically he again trips over a word that is more symptomatic of his own political output: Flush would seem to be the most appropriate action for his risible report on the ‘lazy’ work habits of ‘idle’ British people.
During the hearing, Mr. Kwateng challenged Sir Richard, suggesting many people might take the view Sir Richard was using his “prestige and fame to challenge” an outcome he did not like. Setting aside the fact that a definition of prestige is having a reputation or influence arising from success, achievement, rank, or other favourable attributes, many people might take the view Mr. Kwateng was supporting the Transport Minister, his political colleague, simply because he did not like Mr. Branson’s accusation that the minister had failed in his duty when making a decision about the franchise for the West Coast line.