Winslow has been a Conservative Party member since the age of sixteen, is an MA
Politics student, and is now working to become a solicitor. He also contributes
to the non-party political website Open Unionism.
Lord Faulkner, a former Northern
Irish Prime Minister, once mused that what made an Ulsterman an Ulsterman was
that he was willing to travel 50 miles just to be offended. Clearly, I am of
that stock. Sometimes I like to go to The
Guardian website just to get myself angry at their stupidity.
This is odd enough. But what was
truly mind-boggling was that whilst distracting myself in this way during the early hours of this morning I found a piece with which I actually agreed. And not just any page, a
page on Comment is Free (but facts are cheap). Even more astonishing, the piece
was written by no less a conservative bête noire than Polly Toynbee. Polly. Toynbee.
Her central case was that, contrary
to most public – and much political – perception, population growth is good
news for Britain. And she is utterly correct. As Toynbee points out ‘new
life, new workers, new consumers’ are bringing promise to the economic
wellbeing of the country.
Of course I am being a little too
generous to Toynbee. She was able to observe a phenomenon as a good thing, but
she couldn’t resist the urge to wreck it: she demanded a living wage, higher
taxes, and more money spent on libraries (has she never heard of Kindle, or
Amazon?), the NHS, and a thousand other flailing institutions. She also assumed
it would be an answer to our Ponzi-scheme of a welfare system, so she obviously
doesn’t know some basic mathematics. At best it is a way of delaying the
inevitable. So I suppose in the end it’s just one hip for Polly, and certainly
But that shouldn’t distract us.
My own take on the population growth is somewhat different. Firstly, it will
increase the absolute size of the economy by increasing the number of constituent
parts. This is good, because economies of scale work for UK Plc as well as FTSE
100 companies. Furthermore, other things being equal larger countries have a
greater diplomatic weight which is granted by their population. Britain has
always been able to punch above its weight, but it would certainly be good if
we could continue to add to the scales. Already the gap with Germany for
example is fast-closing.
Secondly, as has been noted on
Conservative Home and elsewhere, each generation is now less collectivist than
the last. The young are embracing the values of conservatism; greater
individual responsibility, greater individual choice, and greater individual
freedom. The faster we can transfer the demographic (and electoral…) balance
towards this generation the better, for our party and our country.
Thirdly, this increase is
disproportionately occurring in London (and the South). An increase in the size
of London is in Britain’s best interests, because cities produce a
disproportionately larger amount of GDP. Furthermore, London is in its own
global race with the world’s other economic centres. Increasing its size will
help it maintain its place as the number one global centre for business.
More than that, though, I feel we
should welcome the immigration aspect of population growth. What could be more
inspiring that individuals coming to improve themselves through hard work? Our
problems previously have been an overly generous welfare system, and a culture
where integration isn’t necessarily as good as it could be. The inevitable
downsides of these have served to poison immigration in the public mind. But
those are not problems with immigration, those are problems of poor government
policy, and could be fixed without setting arbitrary caps on people coming to
The argument that the United
Kingdom is full is, frankly, tosh. Japan has a population twice Britain’s in an
area considerable less than twice the size. But this is not to proclaim
everything rosy. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure we
cater to our expanding citizenry.
For one thing, with the Green
belt in place, land has been artificially restricted. I would not for one
second permit a relaxation of the green belt. We are conservatives, it is our job to
conserve. But we shouldn’t, and can’t, be complete NIMBYs. It is time to loosen
up restrictions on high rise buildings in London. As The Shard, the Gherkin,
the ‘Walkie-Talkie’ and a hundred other skyscrapers show, building up is always
an option. Higher rise apartments can accommodate a higher population.
Secondly, it is imperative that
we better target government resources towards the areas where the population is
rising fastest. The south does badly out of government allocation of resources,
and that balance is getting worse every year.
So there is much to be done, but
we should not see a rising population as anything other than good. Britons are
special. Why wouldn’t we want more of them?