Vince Cable never looked durable enough to survive in the actual business of government, rather than the cosy nook of opposition, but he has proved remarkably resilient. His latest pronouncements on labour law may not amount to much, but they are a move in the right direction, and represent a triumph of common sense over LibDem dogma.

The case for easing the legislative burden on the smallest companies is surely overwhelming. Under current rules, one bloody-minded employee can effectively destroy a tiny company by ruthless exercise of his rights. Cable’s proposals to allow businesses with fewer than 10 workers to dismiss anyone for a payoff, without recourse, will encourage more such businesses to take a risk and expand.

When Labour dubbed the proposal as allowing employers to “fire at will”, the cause looked lost. Had the government instead called it “freedom of contract” between employer and employee, Cable might have been able to set the limit at 25 employees. Still, we should be grateful for small mercies.

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