By Chris Skidmore MP, Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Dominic Raab MP, and Priti Patel MP.
Our new rivals in the world economy are working harder than us, taking their studies more seriously, keeping their debt low, and taking more risks. If Britain is to remain competitive, we must learn from their example. Britannia Unchained is a rallying cry for the 21st Century.
Britannia Unchained backs the current government’s deficit reduction strategy as a vital first step to restoring economic growth. Here our model should be that of Canada in the 1990s. Between 1992 and 2000, Canada converted an annual deficit of 9% of GDP to a surplus of 3%, cutting federal spending by around 20% between 1992 and 1997. In contrast, British public spending has continued to grow since 2007, and the deficit has been reduced by a quarter.
On education, we should be looking eastwards for positive role models, to arrest our decline in the PISA world rankings – we have fallen as low as 28th in maths. Britain has the lowest proportion of students studying maths post-16 of any developed country, at 15%. By contrast, in Japan, 85% of students achieve the equivalent of maths A-level, and Indian students study maths and science for twice as long each week at high school as their British counterparts.
On innovation, Britain can emulate the success of Israel, in supporting high tech entrepreneurship, and the USA, in accepting the benefits of risk-taking and losing our fear of failure. The difference between Silicon Valley and Britain is astonishing. In 2005, 3,867 patents were awarded to businesses and individuals in San Jose, a city of fewer than a million people. The total number of patents awarded in Britain the following year was only 2,978.
The chapter that has provoked the most controversy to date is on work ethic – where Britannia Unchained draws a contrast between Britons and our rivals around the world, in particular the disturbing rise of welfare dependency. A shrinking proportion of workers are peddling harder to drive economic growth and sustain state spending. This undermines British competitiveness and deters foreign direct investment, social mobility and meritocracy. 38% of the population over 16 are not working, with Britain trailing US and ambitious, industrious rising nations in Asia and Latin America.
From a Conservative policy perspective then, this means backing the people that get up and work every day, rather than those content to lie on the sofa watching daytime television. It means backing entrepreneurs and job creators, and cutting deadwood from the public sector. Above all, it means trusting the innate promise of the British people who have always taken pride in doing the right thing in order to get on in life.
We are convinced that Britain’s best days are not behind us. We cannot afford to listen to the siren voices of the statists who are happy for Britain to become a second rate power in Europe, and a third rate power in the world. Decline is not inevitable.
Britannia Unchained: Global Lessons for Growth and Prosperity is published by Palgrave Macmillan today, priced £12.99.