Keith Joseph once declared ‘monetarism is not enough’. It seems remarkable that less than a year ago, nobody was questioning the Prime Minister’s conservatism, his commitment & loyalty to those fundamental pillars of conservatism which are, of course: Freedom, Choice & Opportunity. Yet, today that notion is not alien, ridiculous, detached. By contrast, it is a worrying, significant, even prevalent concern among the party faithful, some Tory MPs and the conservative at heart.
Tony Blair often complained about the press probing the symbolic significance of trivial things, such as the mug he has his tea in. Nonetheless, the language used by the Prime Minister can signal their views & perceptions on certain topics. The role & size of the state, for example.
Some of what the Prime Minister claimed in his ‘New Deal’ speech was right, laudable & refreshing. Some lines implanted a chilling doubt in our Prime Minister’s convictions.
The Prime Minister was, of course, absolutely right to frankly acknowledge the Productivity Puzzle of this country. The most sustainable & long-term powerhouse of economic growth is productivity growth. Producing more goods & services that are demanded & needed in the economy of today is essential to long-term growth, sustained & secure employment and rising living standards for workers, be they in the north, the south, the east or the west. The diagnosis is the easy part, and only the start. The challenge to which the government, MPs and the Party membership must now rise is the identification of the fundamental causes of the productivity puzzle. In truth, that task is ongoing with the government accepting & championing infrastructure improvements, which will improve connectivity & the ease of business in every part of our United Kingdom. We delude ourselves if we believe that if only a few, expensive measures will resolve the underlying, fundamental issues in the British economy today. Capital expenditure increases, properly directed & allocated, will be of enormous economic, political & social benefit. But-it is not enough. Rather than more government, we need less. At a time when the government has been granted extraordinary power to suspend, indefinitely, the freedom & liberty of the individual, it is politically vital to ensure & further the freedoms, liberty & responsibilities of the individual that the government now retreats.
Any Conservative, or indeed any objective observer will agree that British business is the bedrock on which our economy is built, the funders of public services, the employers, the producers of our goods & of our services. All too often, governments give with the one hand to business only to seemingly take with the other by raising the Statutory Minimum Wage, exorbitant & uncompetitive taxation levels, sluggish deregulation & so on. Initial signs & language from the government have been encouraging, now is time for delivery. We need government to sweep a radical broom to deregulate, reform & innovate to permit, like never before, the market to be free so that individuals may also be free, that jobs are abundant, that the wealth does exist to invest in prudent provision of world-class schools, word-class infrastructure in a free prosperous Britain.
Knee-jerk announcements of more & more public spending tell a different tale. Politically, where is the credibility in lambasting, rightly, Jeremy Corbyn & his Labour Party’s reflex answer to a problem-spend-and then, in principle if not in size, doing, on the face of it, the very same thing.
The Prime Minister himself said at Conservative Party Conference 2018 ‘We will defeat Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party, not by copying them…’
Some commentators ask what will happen as a result of policy X or Policy Y. History can answer the questions of today, if only we care to seek them. We need to ask ourselves whether big government, high public expenditure & a sole, obsessive focus on employment really does render success, growth & prosperity? Lest we forget-it does not, cannot & never will regardless of whether we have socialism under Labour or ‘Blue Labour’ Conservatism.