George Osborne wants to change Sunday trading laws to better reflect the 21st century society we live in. I guess by that last sentence it is pretty clear where I stand on that particular issue. However, lest anyone charge in to start calling me a Tory (not that I’m not already used to such things), the idea might fall early due to a large amount of resistance within George’s own party.
The Telegraph reports this morning that two cabinet members and around 50 Conservative MPs are set to rebel against the government on Sunday trading laws. I need to digress for a moment here to point out a paragraph that made me laugh out loud in the same piece:
“Privately, Cabinet ministers are dismayed that the EU referendum is dominating the government’s agenda while key decisions over issues including the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent, a new runway at Heathrow, and an overhaul of human rights have been shelved.”
The notion of Tory cabinet ministers complaining that the EU crap is taking up too much government time is as rich as a chocolate fondue, a lot like when a small child demands to watch cartoons, the parents acquiesce, and then the toddler has a fit when it realises what it really wanted to do was go outside and play.
Anyhow, sorry, back to Sunday trading laws. The fact that 50 MPs want to rebel against this is interesting. Part of it is just petty party politics – they want to give Osborne a bloody nose for daring to take a different stance on the EU stuff they are suddenly annoyed is blocking the parliamentary agenda – but it also represents a real ideological divide. If you’re a freedom loving, free marketeer, it is almost impossible to come up with an argument against liberalising Sunday trading laws. The only arguments against them that make coherent sense are around left issues – low paid staff being forced to work more hours – or religious ones. You can make a conservative argument against them, I suppose, based on the idea that the Sunday trading hours we have are traditional and on that basis alone should not be changed (I wouldn’t put this argument in the coherent column myself).
So what exactly is the Conservative Party then? A free market neo-liberal party or a stop the world I want to get off, old fashioned conservatism party? Luckily for them, they can afford to be both, because they really are both. Unfortunately for George Osborne, with a small majority he is going to have to live with that fact sometimes getting in his way.