I am listening Liz Truss’ various local radio interviews in which she “broke silence” on the mini-budget.
What strikes me is the lack of detail and precision in her statements, the lack of warmth and empathy she builds with her interviewers and her unnerving pausing when she doesn’t grasp the import of the questions.
The questions asked are the obvious ones, but the responses are not those of someone I would trust to go into bat for me on important decisions at home and abroad. The impression I am left with is of someone whose allure is that she sounds like Margaret Thatcher, an attraction to the 80,000 people who voted her in , but not much of a turn-on for the new conservative voters on which her large majority relies.
If this is the best of the Conservative party, then we may well ask, “what is there behind it?”
There is a type of conservatism that I am attracted to, conservatism that governs by consent and listens to various views and acts on them. I saw that emerging with Theresa May and for her time in Government, I actually went to Conservative Party Conferences as a representative of the City and Westminster local party.
What I am hearing now, is the slide from listening to ranting , from consensus to dogma and from economic sense to the gibberish of trickle down economics – Trustmoronics as it has properly been called.
You do not have to be weak to stand for ordinary views. There is no weakness in wanting benefits to be paid in full, for those on low incomes to get universal and pension credit which gives them dignity. It isn’t weak to demand that savings incentives are paid and not denied the low-paid in what even HMRC call an injustice. The interests of the low-paid are as much our interest as that of economic growth. We can have increases in productivity without leaving one part of our population behind.
Nor do you have to be weak to abide by the rules in place to ensure your views are properly checked and promoted as responsible. We have an Office of Budget Responsibility to do that. The wilful rejection of the OBR’s offer to review the mini-budget before its presentation suggests that ideology had taken over from governance. That is precisely the reason why the IMG and others have called out the measures put forward last week for being bad Government – they result from bad governance.
Putting aside the immediate impact of the measures, of which I’ve written enough, the worst aspect of this new economic regime, is that it has quite put aside the big picture we had agreed on at COP 26. Instead of Britain leading the world on issues of the environment and the sustainability of the planet, we have reduced the scope of the conversation to inflation, tax and “growth”. The growth we are considering includes fracking gas from people’s doorsteps, it does not include a move to reduce reliance on carbon emitting fuels but promotes them.
Which means that those people who would be prepared to tighten their belts in the belief that this was a just budget, have nothing to cling to but some ideology that tells them those earning £150,000 a year or more will start working harder for not paying so much tax.
I will stop there. I declare myself against this mini-budget, against its mean spirited lack of generosity, its lack of vision, its rejection of governance and most of all its economic incompetence.
The details of the support for the effects of the energy price rise needed, I guess, to be delivered quickly. What I don’t understand is why, for a number of measures that are not due to come into effect until April next year, the Chancellor did not wait for a full report from the OBR. These tax cuts did not have to be announced last week with no supporting analysis and spook the markets.
Indeed, given that the tax cuts that are going to boost growth (allegedly) do not come into effect for seven months, that leaves plenty of time for interest rates to rise and the pound to stay low, rather taking the wind out of the growth sails.
And, as I understand it, the Government is now looking for spending “efficiencies”. Who are the big spending Departments? Health, Work and Pensions, Defence – so, are we really going to see a substantial reduction in health spending, in the middle of a health crisis; or in defence, in the middle of the Ukraine conflict where the PM has pledged more support; or Work and Pensions, where there is an acknowledged problem in pension saving?