Dr Phillip Lee is MP for Bracknell and a member of the Energy & Climate Change Select Committee. Follow Phillip on Twitter.
There is only one section of our society capable of generating the growth needed to save our economy: the 'Wealth Generators'. My definition of a Wealth Generator is a person who not only creates enough wealth to support themselves, but also others, too. By 2010, after 13 years of Socialism, hedonism and almost criminal fiscal irresponsibility, this small band of people on whom we had all come to rely upon has been left disillusioned and demotivated. Not only do we continue to tax them too highly, our banks are also still very reluctant to support them. Furthermore, in tandem with over-burdensome employment law, previous governments have made their lives a misery with health and safety regulation. In effect, the givers can no longer give enough because the takers are taking too much.
True Conservatives know that Socialists seek to create growth artificially. They don’t understand Wealth Generators. Openly or surreptitiously, the Socialists’ instinct is to control and that is fundamentally at odds with the free-thinking mindset of the entrepreneur. Socialists seek to magic jobs from nowhere, pour money into public projects and then, when all else inevitably fails, resort to the printing press. This is their version of growth. They argue that it is better to give someone a 'non job' and let them pay tax, than it is to provide no job and pay them benefit. This sounds neat, but it has been proven time and time again to be folly. Value cannot be simulated. Politicians of the Right also understand that successful economies need well-educated, driven individuals who are risk-takers. They know that for a country to prosper, it needs a hard core of dynamic people who believe that they have found the right place to fulfill their dreams. Sadly, I fear that does not sound like Britain today. Our young people do not receive an education comparable in quality to our international competitors. Yes, it is true that students do get to feel good about themselves for a few hours on results day, but then they can’t find a job because they’re not good enough. In effect, the Left has created the educational equivalent of a ‘non job’. I believe that this “everyone is excellent” ideology represents the most damaging attack on the futures of our young people since the Second World War. This appalling betrayal has created generations drunk on “A stars” and “media studies” and totally unprepared for the realities of an ever-changing, globalized economy, particularly one that is teetering on the edge of collapse.
More worryingly, this 'unreal' approach to life has sold Britain itself terribly short. The last Labour government left our country more divided than ever before, and that division is far more complex and dangerous than the old cliché of North versus South. It is now private sector workers versus public sector workers; the old versus the young; the rich against the poor; the indigenous versus the immigrant; the debtors against the creditors. Somehow, amidst this malaise of contempt and mistrust within our society we expect our Wealth Generators to save the day. We assume that they will stick around to subsidise the 'non jobs' with their mind boggling pensions; that they will hire staff with dubious qualifications and a poor work ethic; that they will put to one side the fact that we bail out some businesses but not others.
Obviously, not everyone is capable of generating wealth but most people are if they work hard. Without doubt it is not acceptable in a civilized society that those with genuine need are abandoned. However, relatively few people in a sophisticated, Western society qualify for the title 'needy', a description so easily banded around by those of the Left. As with most of their 'solutions', the seemingly well-intentioned nature of the Left’s approach invariably delivers the reverse of the desired effect. Socialists want feel good, instant gratification, as they don’t have the patience and strength of character to create meaningful, long-lasting change. That is why I believe that if we want real growth in the future we need to reset the balance between the givers and the takers. Between those who want to make a living and those who believe that they are owed a living. The lazy, out-of-shape Labour Britain of recent years needs to be replaced by a lean, hard-working Britain of tomorrow.
We need to create a culture in this country where anyone with ambition, irrespective of their gender, class or background, believes it is a place in which they could better themselves. And, although it is true that the great white light of America has been dimming, it is for certain that the European, Socialist “tax and spend” approach will not reinvigorate our country. It will not provide the sustainability and resilience that we need to survive the 21st century. Quite simply, Britain must become the entrepreneurial capital of the world. That may involve being outside of the bureaucratic blancmange of the EU. And, because of the educational failures of the past, it will involve encouraging 'good' immigration, that which involves attracting talented engineers and scientists, rather than 'bad' immigration, that which involves benefit tourism. We will also have to find money to fund tax cuts for individuals and businesses by adopting a more committed and realistic approach to reforming healthcare, welfare and government procurement. Finally, we will need to get better at collecting taxes because the money is there to be found. The answers lie within. Ask Mr Hartnett.
But, equally as important as the immediate reforms to government spending is a change in attitudes. We need to educate our children to be fiscally independent and prudent; to understand that hard work alone equals rewards; to accept that celebrity and consumerism are less important than the tangible results of commitment and application. Kids need to know that there are no short cuts. No one has a right to a good job, a nice car and a big house. To achieve this of course, social mobility needs to become a reality for all. In addition, I believe that we need a tax system skewed in favour of those willing to take risks, strike out on their own and work hard so that the wealth required to underpin a solvent Budget can be secured. We can’t please all of the people all of the time, so let us choose to please the givers, those more likely to create a stable, growing economy. For connecting real effort with genuine reward is the only chance Britain has to regain its greatness. In short, it is time to tell it as it is, not as we all wish it was.