Chapter 14

A Question of Trade

In the House of Commons Terrace Bar, Jackie Maygood and Florence Daniels were talking over a glass of wine after a long day’s work in Committee. “What do you know about what’s been going on with Sunrise and my team, Jackie?” Florence Daniels was keen to make sure Home Affairs and Inwards Investment were singing off the same hymn sheet.

Jackie Maygood shook her head. “Not a lot. Just what you read in the press. They haven’t really been on the radar for any special attention from Inward Investment once it was agreed they’d set up manufacturing here.”

“No, I suppose not. How’s it going for you with Inward Investment?”

“I’m enjoying it. It’s my first ministerial position – I’ve been glad of the opportunity and I think we’ve been able to deliver some positives. You know the New Order political stance didn’t make it easy for us to make friends abroad for a while, but money follows opportunity. Being able to deliver a large low-wage labour force has certainly helped us to attract plenty of employment.”

“In Cabinet yesterday, Claire said she thought you’d done a good job.”

Jackie smiled. It was Claire that had got her in to her current post and it was good that she had noticed her efforts. “Well, thanks.”

“Anyway, I wanted to update you on a new programme we’re putting in through New Opportunity. You’ve seen how we’ve had some problems with the younger generation getting on board with the New Order program. It’s not that there’s any groundswell against it. It’s more that they don’t see things the way we did before we got into Government. Sunrise have some new approaches to youth education that we’re going to be putting in place.”

“Isn’t that an Edu & Skills thing?”

“They’ll be involved in implementation, but I’m more interested in outcomes. You know how concerned I am about reducing things like male curfew violations, for example, and domestic dissidents. This programme should help with that. Anyway, I wanted to make sure you knew what I was up to. I didn’t want to spring anything on you that might affect the relationship Inward Investment has with Sunrise.”

“I haven’t had too much to do with them since the decision to set up the factory in Holmsward. I thought it was going to face a lot of local objection, but it’s turned out to be a real plus for the town. The security worries have been unfounded. To be honest, I think some of my constituents have been glad to have a local sponsor they can pass their males on to.”

“It’s often the way,” Florence advised. “People start off thinking something is going to be appalling and then they discover it’s a real benefit.”

“It doesn’t make it any easier to get new ideas introduced, though.”

“Absolutely. The Junior Mistress training programme is in the same class, I think. Sunrise say they are making progress with the first batch and I’m hoping we can make an announcement on it shortly. Would it be a good idea to for your department and mine to co-host it? Johannsen’s always happy to see Departments showing that they’re talking to one another.”

“I’d have thought so. We can pick up on the fact that Sunrise are bringing in skills and investment and you’ll be keen to stress the benefits of the programme on social cohesion and order. How is the push against domestic dissidents going, anyway?”

“It could be better. Male Control Force does what it can and the intelligence services do a good job, but it will be an uphill battle until the sort of skills Sunrise are teaching are commonplace. The Dissident Analysis Briefing yesterday recommended lowering the concern level by one point, so that’s in the right direction, at least. The only trouble is, I’m sure they aren’t infiltrating the real hotspots. We’re putting some more resources in though, more CCTV, a bigger budget for cultivating informants. It would help if the Courts gave us more support with longer sentences but that’s something we can work on. Chief Justice Stearns made some good points recently on the need for keeping recently discharged offenders under review, I think if we support that we might expect support from her on sentencing issues.”

“Interesting. That all makes the problems at Inward Investment sound like small beer.”

“Don’t sell what you’re doing there short. If your team hadn’t set up the Sunrise relationship, we couldn’t be doing what we are.”

“How did you get involved with them anyway, can I ask?”

“Do you know Corey Preston?”

“I’ve heard the name but beyond that, no.”

“She could be worth having a chat with. She’s a lobbyist. Normally they are a pain, but she does have some good ideas. Your department have almost certainly been keeping her out of your way, if they are half as good as mine are at avoiding anything that might involve them doing a bit of creative thinking.”

“Tell me about it. What is it they say about the Civil Service? They are rarely civil and never provide a service? It’s better now that more party members are working in the departments, but the old guard try so hard to be bloody ‘above politics’ as they call it.”

“Well here’s a thought. I’ve got a policy that I hope to be introducing that will address Stearns’ worries. It could benefit from Sunrise’s manufacturing capacity. If you could suggest, through Preston, that support of the policy might well result in an opportunity for Sunrise, then Inward Investment gets a new feather in its cap; I can show that the policy has industrial support; Corey gets to show what a good job she’s doing for Sunrise; everybody’s happy.”

“Well, I’ll see what I can do. Have you got anything I can tease Preston with?”

“Let’s just say it involves lockable devices, GPS location services, and a way of improving conformance with Male Control Orders. I’ll get you a paper on the things we’re prepared to discuss with them if they sign off that they won’t make them public.”