Friday, October 17, 2008

House Points: Boris, the Tories' great hairy Id

The first House Points - my weekly column for Liberal Democrat News - of the new Parliamentary season.

Conservative economics

If you want to know what the Conservatives really think, proceedings at Westminster are no help. At least they weren’t on Monday. Alistair Darling made a statement on the world economic situation and George Osborne, their shadow chancellor, was on his best behaviour.

"We continue to offer to work constructively with the Government on solving this financial crisis and on the Banking Bill," he said. And: "We will support today’s actions because, faced with the collapse of the banking system, the Government had no other option."

There wasn’t much else he could say, given the gravity of the problems we face. But Osborne’s problems go deeper than that. He still gives the overwhelming impression of being a clever schoolboy. It is hard to get the idea that he was once David Cameron’s fag out of your head. He made "bloody good toast" and has now received his reward.

So Osborne is not a figure who commands respect in a crisis. Already Conservative voices are suggesting Kenneth Clarke would make a more credible chancellor if the party came to power. Certainly, Osborne’s formulation about "sharing the proceeds of growth" has nothing to do with economics. It is just a form of words designed to keep the Tory headbangers on board without alarming moderate voters.

And now there isn’t going to be any economic growth.

No, if you wanted to see the real Conservative Party - to see its great hairy Id - you had to be at its Conference last month. And you had to arrive early: many delegates failed to get in to Boris Johnson‘s speech. And this is what they missed:

"I say to the Labour government – you will not make this country or its capital more competitive by driving away talent. You cannot regulate your way out of a recession. You can certainly regulate your way into one.

"No matter how much you may dislike the Masters of the Universe, my friends, there are plenty of other parts of the universe that would welcome them."

Thank you, Boris. Because that is the authentic voice of Conservatism: on the side of the
filthy rich and invincibly ignorant of the havoc wreaked by their money-driven
philosophy.

2 comments:

HE Elsom said...

That's what Boris reminds me of -- the monsters from the id in Forbidden Planet. Big hairy heads lumbering around on long legs showing up unexpectedly and knocking things over. Though I don't remember them talking drivel all the time.

Alex S said...

Whatever we may think of the "filthy rich" (and who doesn't), Boris is right that we would be unwise to drive them to other countries and tax jurisdictions.

As Hamish McRae pointed out in yesterday's Independent, the top 1% of earners in the UK contribute roughly 25% of income tax revenue.

Now I would say the lavish public spending of the past 7 or so years has been excessive anyway, but the cuts that lie ahead will be much more severe and indiscriminate if we forego the tax revenue of these high earners.

I'm not saying we shouldn't close those loopholes and remove tax privileges that apply uniquely to the very well off - but we should appeal to reason and justice, not envy. And we should beware unintended consequences.

On the wider point, permitting people to ean a lot of money is not the same as worshipping them for doing so, just as not all activities that are legal are necessarily moral. I would have thought this is a basic liberal principle.