Monday, 18 July 2016


A week in politics is an eternity these days, but can you remember that speech in front of 10 Downing Street? You know, when Theresa May looked down the barrel of the lens and channelled her inner Ed Miliband? The idea of a fundamentally different Tory party embracing its One Nation heritage and embedding it in a different economic programme certainly raised a few eyebrows. How's that looking so far?

Unfortunately, the sincerity of Tory Keynesianism has fallen at the first hurdle. May was very clear in the early stages of the leadership contest that the state should step in and prevent the sale of large businesses with strategic leverage. And so we have ARM and its sale to Softbank for £24bn. Not for the first time during the Tories' tenure, a key economic actor - in this case a giant in the increasingly important global high-technology market - has been sold off with the government blandly cheering it on from the sidelines.

What has been gained by the Tories as they've traded in future tax revenues, a burgeoning British-owned lead in the so-called internet-of-things, and the possibility of integrating a dynamic and socially useful company into an industrial strategy? Philip Hammond earlier heralded it as a vote of confidence in the British economy, which of course it wasn't - it's the purchasing of a market leader at a reasonable price. And, I'm afraid to say that is precisely why ARM's sale has had the government's nod. As we slope along the path of slow Brexit, May is going to pull out all the stops to ensure that, as far as business is concerned, nothing has changed. Britain is still one of the best places to invest, in or out of the EU, and you can swoop in and pick up the family silver with nary a murmur. Anything, anything that can stand in for and represent those sound fundamentals allegedly bequeathed by George Osborne will be seized upon and broadcast from the roof tops. Even if, again, it is entirely counterproductive from the standpoint of British business as a whole.

Softbank have said nothing will change. ARM will stay headquartered in Cambridge. The staff doubled. Everything hunky-dory, but we've heard that story many times before these last six years. I'm sceptical this buy out will prove any different in the medium term, unfortunately. What it shows without the shadow of any doubt is despite the promises to govern for the whole people, May's Tories on their first test have proved no different to Dave's term in office. A strategic company has been let go just for the sake of a brief market-soothing headline. Conservative decadence lives on, uninterrupted.


Metatone said...

The kicker is that if we hard Brexit it's entirely possible they'll move the main research lab elsewhere, even if they originally intended to stay, b/c ARM's main people advantage has been recruiting from the EU.

MikeB said...

Nobody actually believes what politicians say these days.

Only Westminster journos and wonks get excited; they get some copy and/or some gossip.