Lord Flight is Chairman of Flight & Partners Recovery Fund, and is a former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
I will resist writing an attack on the EU’s crude and rude tactics designed to extract the maximum amount of money from us in order to agree a sensible trade deal in the interests of all parties; or making the point that if you have an undemocratic system, you risk ending up with people like Juncker. I think the Government is not being tough enough, and should be prepared to withdraw and live under the WTO rules. But everybody I meet is getting bored of Brexit, so I will write in support of free market capitalism.
Thank goodness the Prime Minister has at last spoken out in favour of it. I am astonished that a Conservative Government should have appeared to embrace a socialist ethic, with wishy-washy, opportunistic policies. We had to wait for Margaret Thatcher to sort out the inefficient socialist economy which had developed under Harold Wilson and Edward Heath, but now seem to have forgotten the lessons we learnt then.
The Government has retreated into an ethos of spend more (even when we are burdening the next generation with excessive debt); regulate more (where regulation has frequently gone over the top), costing too much and damaging businesses; and tax more, (if there is anybody left that can afford to pay it). It is extraordinary that a statist culture should now be driving a Conservative Government.
The Daily Telegraph, and specifically Allister Heath, Jeremy Warner and Graeme Leach remain prophets of free market capitalism but, as Heath writes, we no longer ask what we can do for ourselves and our family, but what our Government can do for us, paid for with other people’s money. I make no apology for plagiarising Heath whose sound politics, born of growing up in France, I much respect.
Healthy debate has gone quiet, leaving a ridiculous and relentless assault on capitalism led by Momentum and shored up by centrists. Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to the recent Labour Conference needs politically destroying. When was the last time a Conservative Government figure made an impassioned moral defence of capitalism and lower taxes, explaining why entrepreneurs and high risk investors are at the source of social progress. Rather this Conservative Government launches an attack on its own highly successful Enterprise Investment Scheme to support SMEs. Citizens need to understand why all economies must live within their means, which requires a smaller State.
There is no case for increasing public sector pay: level by level, it is still considerably higher than in the private sector, without taking into account the far better pensions and shorter working hours in the public sector. University funding clearly needs reform, but I suggest this should start by many people being able to get their qualifications and training on a “sandwich” basis, ‘on the job’ – and not building up debts they cannot afford to repay.
Mercifully, there remain a few Thatcherites, even in the Cabinet, who believe in the power of liberty, responsibility, commerce and voluntary action. But, sadly, they are squeezed between a Mayite, anti-market Conservative Party and a socialist Labour Party. The Prime Minister is misguided if she thinks she will gain political brownie points from attacking business: this merely plays into the hands of the Corbynites.
If the UK is to make a success of Brexit ,we need deregulation and a smaller State. Yet every political announcement is about tax or spending commitments, and heavy handed and mistaken top-down intervention. Post-Brexit, the public will not tolerate the status quo on immigration, but that does not mean we need central planning of the flow of labour in the minutest of detail. We need a pro-capitalist, pro-enterprise, principled Conservative Government and a new generation which can preach the economic truths which Corbyn would abandon at our peril.