Ben Kelly is a freelance writer. His work has appeared on Conservatives for Liberty and Libertarian Home, and he edits The Sceptic Isle.
In the early years of New Labour, Gordon Brown was constrained by the spending plans of the previous government. In 1998 the Chancellor made the catastrophic promise to double public spending over the following decade.
In 2001-02 the UK had a small budget deficit of 0.2 per cent of GDP, which is very close to a balanced budget. Then Brown started his spending splurge. From that point on tax revenues fell short of spending and the government ran an annual budget deficit, increasing its debt when it should have been reducing it and planning ahead.
We all know how this story ends. The economic crisis hit and “booming” Britain was naked in the rain, shivering. Throughout this period of folly there were two eager young men acting as core advisers to the profligate chancellor, Ed Balls and Ed Miliband, and now they want to take the reins.
The public do not rate Miliband, and with good reason, but due to the imbalance of the boundaries and the collapse of the Liberal Democrats he could crawl across the line and become Prime Minister.
The more I see of the Labour leader, the more utterly unimpressed I become. There are no prime ministerial credentials to discuss. He manages to make a mountain out of every molehill and creates PR disasters from minor incidents. He is bumbling and indecisive.
When he needed to show a bit of backbone during the Emily Thornberry kerfuffle, he didn’t have the stomach for it and sacked her. This reactionary response boosted the news story. After his spin doctors convinced him to pose with The Sun he issued a grovelling apology. When the deliberations over Syria were taking place he seemed set to back the government but in the face of a rebellion he wilted; he now presents this as an act of principle.
He is a decent man, though his good intentions will not necessarily translate into desirable consequences. Ed seems to have a deep need to be liked, an admirable trait in a poodle but not in a Prime Minister leading Britain while she is still in a very fragile state and needs strong guidance through deeply troubling and challenging times.
It is, however, his anti-capitalist attitude and socialist populism that we should fear the most. Miliband, the unions’ leader of choice, believes his historical mission is to herald sweeping change in a radical leftist version of Thatcher’s renewal of Britain. Like Balls, he is still unrepentant about the high taxation, borrow-and-spend policies of the previous government.
To make up for shortages of funding he plans to transform the economy through “pre-distribution”; using regulation to forcibly move money around and make business bend to the will of the state. Breaking up the big banks, for example, or freezing energy prices, banning zero hours contracts, imposing rent caps and banning letting agent fees.
Much of Labour policy is based purely on his socialist instinct rather than practicality or common sense. The abolition of “non-dom” status is just the latest example. We are told, rather vaguely, that it could raise “hundreds of million of pounds” (an insignificant amount when compared to the £90 billion deficit) but by causing an exodus of many of the 115,000 people the status applies to, the risk is that the economy will lose much of their £8.2 billion in annual tax contributions.
Then we have the decision to raise the top rate of income tax back to 50p despite there being no evidence that it will raise any more money. When you include National Insurance the top rate will be approximately 57.8 per cent, – high enough that it could actually reduce the total tax take. It is counter-productive populism. Ed may be liked by the aggrieved but his approach won’t make the country any money.
The mansion tax is a ludicrous idea that infringes on property rights and will force thousands of people to sell their homes. Many others will decide against upgrading theirs for fear of increasing the value over the threshold, hardly a boost to the building trade. People will take measures to keep the value of their house down and avoid paying up, like when the window tax was introduced and people bricked up their windows. On top of this the government will have to create a new bureaucratic inspectorate that values homes and the taxpayer will pick up the bill for the inevitable appeals.
Miliband wants to hamper the City by breaking up the big banks, bringing in a bonus tax and increasing the balance sheet levy. The City of London is disproportionately crucial to our economy and Labour’s City bashing approach threatens London’s status as the world’s financial centre. Money will drain away and go elsewhere, investment will drop and we will lose market share.
The reduction in corporation tax has been one of the key policies that facilitated private sector job creation. Labour wants to increase it and put all that at risk. Milibandism will be a neon sign that reads, “Britain is closed for business”.
I shudder at the thought of five years of Labour government, and I haven’t even mentioned their desire to ruin the education reforms by bringing autonomous institutions back under local authority control, killing off free schools and kowtowing to the unions.
We will have no EU referendum and no desire for serious reform, just a government of enthusiastic integrationists who don’t give a damn about consulting the public.
We will have a socialist academic PM with a record of failure. A weak Prime Minister with the Scottish Nationalist Party, the Greens and Plaid Cymru breathing down his neck and tugging at his elbows, trying to drag him even further left.
There was a former backroom boy turned leftist radical who rose to power in France too, “Monsieur Flanby” – François Hollande. Within a month we could have our very own clumsy, bumbling, error-prone buffoon wrecking the country and making us a laughing stock.