Demonstrating his credentials as the sworn enemy of red tape, David Cameron explained: “I go to European Council after European Council, where I have a reputation for being incredibly boring by going on and on... about deregulation.” On Monday he decided to branch out and make an incredibly boring speech about deregulation in London instead.
To be fair, there was a non-boring, even startling, list of the “crazy” regulations “dreamt up by Whitehall bureaucrats”. “If you want to sell oven cleaner in this country, you need to have a poisons licence. I think that’s a piece of pointless regulation that can go.” At least, that is, until some fitness fanatic is persuaded by an unscrupulous shopkeeper that a shot or two of Mr Muscle is an aid to body building.
During questions afterwards a young man explained that he had started his business at the age of 12. Unfazed, Cameron asked what it did. “Chocolate,” he explained, adding: “I sell chocolate to Mexico, by the way.” He said that when he had “set out” he was one of a “very few”, but “we can now see the age of entrepreneur has arrived”.
This was puzzling. Given his age when he “set out”, did he mean that school corridors were now abuzz with thriving import-export businesses run by driven pre-teens arranging shipments of Smarties across five continents? He didn’t say.
Cameron was then asked by journalists about Boris Johnson’s call for the top rate of tax to be reduced to 40p. This was a “matter for the Chancellor”, he said, willing us to believe that a mere Prime Minister couldn’t pronounce on something so technical.
While the Coalition’s decision to cut the top rate to 45p had been “right for the economy but politically difficult”, he said, Labour’s plan to raise it back to 50p was “politically convenient” but “very, very bad for the economy”.
Hmmm. Given the furore whipped up by Coalition-supporting business – and potential party donors – over a temporary 50p top tax rate for those earning a mere (as they see it) £150,000 a year, you couldn’t help wondering how “politically difficult” it had really been.