Conservatives’ Brexit stance means it cannot be trusted on public finance

My own prime political motivator is stable public finances. Fundamentally, I believe our whole way of life is threatened by an unwillingness to face up to the basic fact that the amount we raise in revenue in the West (directly in taxes and charges through to indirectly in trade for wealth creation and so on) does not even come close to the amount we expect to be spent on welfare (including pensions) and public services. Only this week, the Economist ran an article clarifying beyond doubt that the aggregate of our national insurance payments comes nowhere close to paying for pensions – people may have “contributed all their lives” but the simple fact is they have not contributed enough. Just because this fact is not electorally popular does not make it wrong.

So it is, in the past, that I have generally veered towards the right on finance (while tending towards the left on social matters), even if I am unconvinced right and left have much meaning any more. It is to be expected, as I have noted on these pages, that I view the Labour manifesto with a degree of contempt, as it is simply a list of populist giveaways (often in fact for the middle classes) without even any attempt being made to raise the serious revenue needed to pay for them. This is cheap populism of the worst kind.

The problem is, the Conservatives are absolutely no better. Their manifesto is, of course, uncosted, making their claims of fiscal responsibility arguable at best. Of course, there is a big elephant in this very small room which in any case renders any Conservative claims of financial rectitude utterly void – Brexit.

Committed as they are to Brexit come what may, the Conservatives simply have no means of being able even to estimate how much revenue will be available to them throughout the coming parliamentary term. A Brexit “with no deal”, which they ludicrously put forward as a “threat”, would make it almost impossible for the UK to trade favourably with anyone, severely restricting exports, thus wealth creation, thus government revenue, thus public spending. Let us be clear: this makes Conservative pledges every bit as meaningless and dangerously populist as Labour’s. They simply have no idea what they will be able to afford over the term, and it is an outright lie for them to suggest otherwise.

Needless to say, I am not exactly impressed by the Liberal Democrats’ Leader’s blundering and uncertitude on social issues either, but if it is financial responsibility you are after, purely by dint of not being an “any Brexit will do” party, it is the Liberal Democrats I would have to vote for.

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6 thoughts on “Conservatives’ Brexit stance means it cannot be trusted on public finance

  1. yes the trouble is you seem to have been all over the place politically. In your last post you commented that too many people are dependant on welfare -indeed i have seen evidence of poor lifestyle choices at my local doctors surgery which serves mainly a poorer community However the jobs -like assembly line work which people in marganlised communities look to do no longer exist indeed they are being automated even in the third world My new car was build by ford in india (ford ka+) but even there the factory is highly automated so it can build cars to world standards not indian standards The only demand now is for highly qualified people and their are not nearly enough (and these jobs are getting scarcer all the time) You state a obvious problem that welfare dependance is not good for people of working age and i know you were once mesmorised by Ian Duncan Smith and worked for is think tank (fool you) but all you have done is edentify a obvious problem not offer any meaningful solutions!

    • Hi Malcolm – this blog is full of meaningful solutions. It also notes that the people would rarely vote for them, mesmerised (to use our word!) as they are by crazy populists on both left and right.

  2. andyboal says:

    The key problem is that the British people have bought the lie that you can get more for less if you just make some efficiency savings.

    it’s been obvious for years that there are no efficiency savings to be made without a massive change in ideology, because the only realistic saving I can see is to stop wasting so much money on contracting out.

    I very much doubt that competitive tendering for ongoing activities is saving money any more due to cheaper labour costs due to waste on private profits, even before considering the money required to ensure contract compliance, and the cost of variations to cover the provision of demand-led services beyond what is agreed.

    I don’t think the Great British Public ™ is ready for this simple truth: if they want their services, it needs taxes, and it needs both to hit those with spare cash instead of the JAMs and worse (which the usual resort of VAT and NICs usually hit) and one massive change: to make taxation the moral issue it ought to be, because ultimately it’s about greed.

    Don’t start me on moral issues – Matthew 23:23-24 always comes to mind:
    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

    • There are certainly some scope for greater efficiency, in that less effort is used to produce greater results. However this is really a matter of working better, working with better structure and perhaps flexibility but you can not of course get more out than what is put in, that’s the limits of first law of thermodynamics.

      It’s all about reducing the level of diminishing returns.

      To quote scripture this it in The Parable of the Sower … Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:1-15.

      The big problem is perhaps that human tendency of ignoring the bird in the hand while wanting the two in the bush. Somewhat similar to the Prodigal Son.

  3. Seymour Major says:

    I’m slightly surprised by this headline. How is it possible to put forward a completely sound, properly costed, manifesto with all relevant detail relating to public finance and win an election in 2017? Answer. It is not. So what are the Conservatives supposed to do? Lose?

    The Conservatives have not costed out their spending plans, for information control reasons but also because of Brexit. One thing I found rather shocking was that the projected time when the budget will be in balance has been moved to 2025. Yet, it makes sense. In the event that Brexit is as bad as it can be, that cushion might actually be needed.

    Populism does worry me though. Policies, such as Nationalisation and raising the highest rate of income tax have reared their ugly head in this election campaign. They are popular again because so few still remember the 1970s (when the top rate of tax was 83% with an accompanying drain of talent and the nationalized industries choked by union power). I am particularly concerned that by 2022, a populist left-wing, sugar-packaged, election campaign with a more able politician than Corbyn will see that party win power. Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Conservatives in their next administration is not managing Brexit but educating the electorate as it goes along so that a sufficient proportion of the population takes responsibility for those they put in power..

    • To defeat populism we need people in the general public to take ownership of the problem, to have a responsibility. Unfortunately populism does prey on those considered most surplus to requirements in our society, yet does nothing to value them as something more than a supporter.

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