Lord Digby Jones, chairman of Triumph Motorcycles, in Hinckley, is a busy, and not so kind-hearted businessman. As Richard Seymour observed in his book The Meaning of David Cameron (2010):
“The ex-head of the CBI and former New Labour minister Lord Digby Jones has argued that the government should ‘starve the jobless back to work’, thus not only signalling a new level of ruling class viciousness, but also implying the mass unemployment in the middle of a recession is voluntary. He has argued that anyone who is unemployed should be forced to carry out community-work, and anyone who refuses three job offers should be forced to live in a hostel on ‘subsistence rations’. One could hardly invent a more grotesque parody of capitalist self-righteousness, avarice, vindictive malice and stupidity. A polite word for it would be ‘Dickensian’.” (pp.59-60)
Lord Jones made these comments in April 2010, yet the following year he courted national controversy again when he argued that children should be allowed to leave school at age 14; stating his belief that for many students taking GCSEs was pointless because they had given up on education. But the Tory newspaper that broke the story politely gave the other side of this story, writing:
“Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘This would be an extraordinary retrograde step.If we allowed people to leave school at 14, we would be letting loose a cohort of people in the workplace who are simply unprepared. Research shows that early specialism is dangerous, especially at a time when we simply do not know what sort of workforce we will need in 20 or 30 years time and young people are going to have to work longer than any previous generation.
“Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, added: ‘There aren’t enough jobs for 16-year-olds, let alone 14-year-olds. Allowing children to leave school at that age, without good levels of literacy and numeracy, would trap them in low-paid jobs for the rest of their lives.”
Unfortunately when the Leicester Mercury ran their own article on this subject the next day, they excluded any criticism of Lord Jones. In fact they took the opposite angle, noting how: “Lord Jones’s comments were supported by Leicestershire Education Business Company, in Braunstone, which prepares youngsters for the workplace.”
Moving on a few years to UKIP’s annual conference, Lord Jones made a guest appearance on their podium. He introduced his 25 minute speech by saying how was “glad to share some thoughts on business with a political party in the ascendant.” But despite his evident optimism at UKIP’s prospects, Lord Jones acknowledged that he had never been a member of any political party, and had, in the past, actually refused to join the Labour Party. “My constituency is business”, he made clear.
Lord Jones’s commitment to the needs of big business before workers has of course never been in question. This is why just last year he became a corporate ambassador for Aon Corporation, which is one of the biggest insurance brokerage firms in the world.
Most people have probably not heard to Aon, but they courted some controversy in 2009 when their UK subsidiary was found to have “made over $3.6 million in improper payments between 1983 and 2007 to win or retain insurance business in Costa Rica, Egypt, Vietnam, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.” In order to resolve these serious accusations of overseas bribery allegations Aon paid a penalty of £5.25 million to the U.K.’s Financial Services Authority, which was the largest fine the FSA had ever levied for financial crimes.
But it seems that Aon learned few lessons from this slap on the wrist, and just a few years later they “entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice to pay a $1.76 million penalty to resolve violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.” And so it was that last July Lord Jones decided to join this friendly outfit as one of their corporate ambassadors. How nice!