Lord Flight is Chairman of Flight & Partners Recovery Fund, and is a former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
“Bliss Was It to Be Alive in That Dawn”: I recollect this was Wordsworth’s initial comment on The French Revolution – which, alas, he had to resile from subsequently.
I do not believe we will have the same experience. The UK’s political independence and its economy have been rescued by down to earth voters, particularly up North, who saw Jeremy Corbyn for what he is – a disreputable communist.
I have always believed in the good sense of the electorate as a whole; it is a huge relief that this remains the case.
My second observation of the general election campaign is that Boris Johnson saw the need for a low profile and responsible Prime Minister’s campaign, also maximising the number of people he could meet or see in the flesh.
I suspect all of this was wisely organised by Dominic Cummings and his team; and possibly also encouraging the scaremongering in the last week of the campaign, with the intention of stirring up voters from all quarters to turn out and vote against Corbyn.
Johnson has also been stressing the One Nation Conservative Party line – “speaking literally from everyone from Woking to Workington and from Surrey Heath to Sedgefield”. The Conservative Party has changed significantly over the election campaign, resulting in 109 new, first time Tory MPs – 30 per cent of the Parliamentary Party and 29 per cent more female MPs.
There are interesting parallels to be drawn here between Johnson and Benjamin Disraeli. Both are pragmatic and non doctrinaire politicians; both have presided over, if not led, Conservative political success in what have been previously, Opposition territories. Both have asserted the Conservative One Nation principle.
The new Conservative Government now needs to decide and agree what are its priorities, both in the short to medium term and the longer term. I suggest the necessary first priority is to sort out the Stamp Duty mess. The large increase in Stamp Duty costs to buyers in London and the Home Counties has frozen the housing market without achieving its objective of a huge increase in Stamp Duty revenue.
At best I would like to see Stamp Duty on residential property abolished, or at least restored to a much more modest, affordable, flat rate. Business Rates also need reviewing for the retail sector. The combination of highly expensive Business Rates for small, retail businesses and the major growth of the online retail market have been killing local high streets.
If voters have historically turned a blind eye to the political bias of the BBC, in this election campaign it was too obvious to miss. The BBC’s structure is an out of date, Second World War, socialist creation. Prosecuting elderly voters who have failed to pay their licence fee is clearly inappropriate. It should be a matter of choice for citizens as to whether or not they wish to subscribe to the BBC. There should be the technology available to stop non-subscribers being able to tune into BBC channels.
I believe the three big long-term territories which the Johnson Government needs to address are Civil Service reform; freeing up, particularly, the ability of talented individuals to move between the public and private Sectors; major simplification of our tax rules, and a phased reduction in the tax burden across all income ranges.
I accept the case that while interest rates are thus low it makes sense for the Government to borrow to finance infrastructure investment. My reservation is how to determine proposed infrastructure investments are worthwhile. Many will recollect, also driven by very low Yen interest rates, how the public sector in Japan invested in infrastructure projects of little or no economic value. I believe the formula which is likely to be the more successful here is for the public sector to assist with the funding and range of potential infrastructure investments available.
But the private sector should determine what they think are the projects worth addressing and do the job. By way of example, I anticipate there will be huge growth over offshore wind power generation in the next 20 years. Projects should be selected and managed by the private sector but with financial support and planning assistance from the public sector.
There have been massive increases in regulatory costs and requirements imposed mostly on the private sector. This has been a major cause of our poor productivity growth figures. I believe there is now the need for a critical review of required regulation with the objective of reducing and simplifying regulatory requirements – particularly within the financial sector.