Category: Economics

The Fight for the Soul of the Tory Party

By deposing the Leader and Prime Minister largely responsible for its current ideological paralysis, the Conservative Party must resolve its intellectual vacuum about what modern conservatism stands for

Note: this is the longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Monday 1st October 2018

“There are some of us, Mr Chairman, who will fight, and fight, and fight again, to save the party we love”.

In 2018, 58 years after they were addressed by its then Leader Hugh Gaitskell to the 1960 Labour Party Conference, opposing its move towards the hard-Left and its embrace of unilateral nuclear disarmament, those words need once again be addressed to a party conference. Only this time, to the Conservative Party Conference, and moreover not by its Leader, but at her.

As if Theresa May’s duplicitous preparation and imposition on her Cabinet of her now justly infamous Chequers Plan were not bad enough, she has carried on championing it even after its crushing, personally humiliating dismissal by the EU.

May humiliated Salzburg Summit 3She continues to cling obstinately, not only to Chequers as the sole Brexit option she is prepared to consider, but also, incredibly, to Olly Robbins, her thoroughly discredited No 10 Brexit adviser, whose brainchild it was, and on whose ‘expert’ advice that the EU would accept it she persists in relying, to the exclusion of all others.

Yet not merely other, but superior, alternatives exist, being urged on her constantly by allies and opponents alike, which both better reflect the desire manifested in the Brexit vote for clear political, judicial and economic separation from Brussels, and give better opportunities for a newly-independent post-Brexit Britain to forge new trading links around the world.

The Institute of Economic Affairs’ Plan A Plus maximises the scope for eliminating damaging tariffs and regaining control over our fisheries, as well as facilitating new Free Trade Agreements with the world’s dynamically-growing economies outside the stagnating and scelerotic EU: Chequers keeps us tied into it as closely as possible.

IEA Plan A Plus Launch Sep 2018The Canada Plus arrangement gives us total freedom of control over immigration policy, and independence from the EU’s ‘Common Rule Book’: Chequers gives us neither.

Yet they fall on deaf ears. May has her Chequers Plan, she insists that nothing else is acceptable, and that, for her, is that. To the evidence, both that it is less popular than No-Deal, and that its unpopularity exacerbates that of herself and her party, she is impervious.Unpopularity of Chequers dealBut there is worse to come. May’s obdurate adherence to Chequers is being compounded by her acceptance at the very least, or even endorsement if not something more, of a grotesquely cynical ramping up of Project Fear.

The scaremongering operation born out of the Treasury’s pre-Referendum antipathy to Brexit is now being pushed once again by May in full Stockholm-Syndrome mode – on new ‘expert’ advice from her preferred source? – but this time against a No-Deal Brexit as an alternative to Chequers, as part of a deliberate “Chequers or Chaos” strategy.

We saw a foretaste of it in the run-up to the early-July Chequers Summit, with Airbus warning of an exodus from the UK in the event of No-Deal, very soon, curiously, after discussions with Business Secretary and arch-Remainer Greg Clark. But since then, there have been plenty other examples. To quote just two or three:

After having previously instructed them to spend their summer holidays touring Europe to drum up support for her Chequers Plan, May was in early September ordering Ministers to stress to the public that there was no alternative to it

Or try the Association of British Insurers’ warning that it would become illegal in the event of a No-Deal Brexit for insurance-based pensions to be paid to UK-nationality recipients resident in the EU. Fortunately, fairly easy to demolish.

Then, as recently as last week, May’s government theatrically appointed a Food Supplies Minister, “to oversee the protection of food supplies in the event of a No-Deal Brexit”. Such an appointment has previously confined to wartime and was not even deemed necessary in the rolling strikes and disruptions to distribution experienced in the 1974 industrial crisis and the 1978-79 Winter of Discontent.

In summary, not only do we have a Remainer Prime Minister sticking resolutely to a Brexit plan already rejected out-of-hand by an EU no doubt confident that further concessions can be wrung from a desperate Theresa May in deep political trouble, but shunning all other, and better alternatives. We also have a Remainer Prime Minister colluding in, if not directing, a co-ordinated attempt to frighten the British public into accepting it.Project Fear 2018

It’s perhaps hardly surprising that 56 per cent of those polled by Sky Data think Brexit will be worse than expected. The Remainer dominated media and political elite, including even the Governor of the Bank of England, have done little for the last 28 months except attempt to talk the nation into a state of catatonic panic. Mrs May must be so pleased.

Were Brexit the sole source of the Conservatives’ predicament, the crisis might – just – be containable. But overlying May’s Brexit shambles is the Party’s severe ideological vacuum, epitomised by the instinctively statist, authoritarian, May, devoid of any discernible guiding philosophy, personality, or leadership ability, and of which her self-inflicted Brexit shambles is arguably merely a part – its apparently total inability to come up with any ideas, vision or policies to counter the 1970s-throwback, reheated hard-Left socialism of Corbyn’s Labour.

Not before time, commentators have been lining up this past week to highlight the depth, and cause, of this malaise, and rightly condemn it.

In The Daily Telegraph, Allister Heath correctly laid the vast majority of the blame for Corbynomics being so ostensibly popular with Middle England on the faux-‘Conservative’ Party which has largely stopped countering it and in effect capitulated to it.

McDonnell’s Mad Marxism is very likely to be an electoral winner, warned Maggie Pagano at Reaction, not because of any intrinsic merits, but thanks to Theresa May’s Tories’ timidity & incompetence.

The Conservatives, observed Ryan Bourne accurately, also in The Daily Telegraph, have now spent so long agreeing with Labour’s negative portrayal of our economic system, and even imitating its policies, that they have now deprived themselves of any effective criticisms of them.

Ministers like Philip Hammond, noted The Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, are incapable of fighting back other than with left-wing prescriptions like surreptitious tax rises or expensive new spending projects, so that Corbyn is actually leading the nation’s intellectual conversation.

The Conservative Party must re-embrace freeing individuals & businesses from creeping Nanny-State paternalism & authoritarianism, in favour of aspiration, opportunity & meritocracy, pleaded former International Development Minister Priti Patel MP, writing in the Parliamentary magazine The House.

Red-Labour has been made electable by the pseudo-Tories, fumed Gerald Warner at Reaction, condemning the so-called ‘modernised’ Conservative Party for squandering the once-in-a-lifetime chance given to it by Brexit to cease being an empty, principle-free shell.

The Conservatives, fulminated The Spectator editorial in its pre-Conference edition, are functioning as Corbyn’s Useful Idiots: years of failing to make the case for basic liberty and the free enterprise system, of stealing Labour policies in pursuit of electoral advantage, have left them unable to explain why Corbyn is wrong.

And when usually loyal Conservatives like Charles Moore and Tim Montgomerie legitimately ascribe culpability for the Party’s ideological paralysis to May and call for her to go, in effect saying, rightly, that she is all but guaranteeing the advent of a hard-Left Labour government led by Corbyn and McDonnell, her days are surely numbered.

So in Birmingham, over the next two days, there are parallel Brexit and non-Brexit battles taking place. The unofficial, but never far from the surface, impending leadership contest is almost immaterial, because the ideological struggle over the shape, not only of Brexit but of Conservatism, will determine its outcome.

Will the Party continue on its present ever-Leftward drift, preoccupied with fashionably politically-correct social-justice and identity-politics, and convinced, bizarrely, that the only way to stop full-strength Corbyn economically is to offer diet-Corbyn instead? Or will it somehow re-discover the moral and intellectual firepower to oppose Corbynism absolutely and offer a distinctive and optimistic vision of a freer, less-taxed and better-off society?

For anyone wanting the latter, an irredeemably intransigent, incompetent, inflexible Theresa May, a disaster for her party, the country and arguably democracy itself, and who ideally should not even be giving the Leader’s Speech on Wednesday at all, must be forced to declare that it will be her last. If ever there was a need for a repeat-in-reverse on Tuesday of Macmillan’s Night of the Long Knives, it’s now.

Drastic though it is, the present circumstances do justify a palace coup – whereby she is told by a co-ordinated procession of individual colleagues visiting her one by one as with Thatcher in 1990, and in no uncertain terms, that the game is up: that she cannot lead the party through Brexit, much less into the next General Election which could follow a failure to get her Brexit deal through Parliament before March 2019: and that her only alternative is to resign, with effect from the conclusion of her speech, in favour of a pro-Brexit caretaker Prime Minister.

Labour Party Conferences may well be mainly characterised by a succession of extreme-Left demagogues delivering two-minute rants from the platform on arcane and largely indecipherable motions. But at least policy is discussed and even voted on, albeit after a fashion.

But in almost comically stark contrast, the obsessively stage-managed, anodyne, debate-free rallies of the slavishly-loyal, listening dutifully to ministers’ set-piece speeches, which now comprise the formal proceedings of Conservative Party conferences, have become notorious – rightly mocked even by The Daily Telegraph as merely “paying through the nose for the privilege of clapping”.

Conference audience dutifully applauding

If the Party, despite its current dire ideological and political predicament, yet again prefers to close ranks, eyes and ears, and contrives to hold a synthetically-orchestrated, reality-ignoring Conference: and if the pro-Brexit, anti-May dissenters yet again recoil from openly mounting a challenge, both to her conduct of Brexit specifically and her party leadership generally: then a Corbyn government is a near-certainty, and they will have no-one but themselves to blame.

That modern-day equivalent of Gaitskell’s “fight for the soul of the Party” needs to be taking place. In Birmingham. Here and now.

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Blueprint for a Peaceful, Legal, and Non-Violent Civic Resistance

How the Continuity-Remain Government’s and political class’ anti-democratic determination not to deliver the Brexit which 17.4 million voted for could be resisted and defeated

Note: this is the longer (and updated) version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Saturday 11th August 2018 

Just after the 2016 EU Referendum, I speculated on Twitter that, despite the clear majority vote to leave, the overwhelmingly anti-Brexit ‘Liberal’-Elite, New-Class Establishment would not willingly respect and implement the electorate’s democratic decision without a fight, so that we might have to take to the streets, preferably non-violently, to achieve it.

In hindsight, even that pessimistic prediction was an under-estimation, but the revelations from Theresa May’s now infamous Chequers Summit, and developments since, serve only to exacerbate fears of an impending massive sell-out and a soft-Remain, Brexit-In-Name-Only, at the very least. In my view, even May conceding a second referendum, as the price of the EU’s agreeing a limited or even indefinite extension of Article 50, can’t be ruled out.

Assuming that supposedly Brexiteer Tory MPs continue to sit on their hands, and that the burgeoning grassroots revolt doesn’t grow sufficiently large or irresistible to force her resignation and replacement with a committed Brexiteer, the question arises: what next?

I don’t believe that May and her sycophantic majority-Remain government should be allowed just to ride roughshod over democracy itself. I hope there’d be huge outrage across the country, particularly among the 17.4 million who voted for Brexit, not least on the Government’s promise to implement their decision. But: to be effective, what tangible form should it take?

The ‘Liberal’-Elite Remainer Establishment would undoubtedly love us to take to the streets, so that we could, with the willing assistance of its similarly-inclined compliant media, be painted as ‘violent far-right’. Something more subtle would be required. To quote Sun Tzu in ‘The Art of War’ – ‘the wise general never fights a battle on ground of the enemy’s choosing’.

My provisional blueprint for a rolling programme of peaceful, non-violent, civic-resistance has as its inspiration the fuel price protests of 2000. A maximum of a mere 3,000 people, by cleverly strategically blockading the main fuel refineries and distribution facilities, and skilfully eliciting public support, not only credibly threatened to, but very nearly did, bring the country to a halt, but also, crucially, and as was admitted only later, very nearly brought Blair’s first government down.

Fuel Protests 2000 v2

We’ve become accustomed to believing that, between elections, we’re comparatively powerless. I’m not so sure. True, we may not have direct political power. But what 17.4 million of us in aggregate do potentially have is economic power, and in spades. There are several ways we can exert substantial unconventional political influence, and by wholly peaceful, legal means.

Mass, rent and council-tax strikes can adversely affect local authority finances very quickly. The key is in numbers. They can’t possibly sue and/or prosecute everyone, because that would overwhelm most local authorities’ meagre legal resources, as well as clogging up the Courts; moreover the cash-flow problems it would cause most councils would be damaging on their own. Imagine if council staff couldn’t be paid because of a mass rent and council tax strike.

The next option is for a mass boycott of the corporates who’ve joined in anti-Brexit scaremongering, whether of their own volition or at the Government’s request. 17.4 million is a lot of customers. . . .

Alternative supermarket chains to, for example, Morrison’s, or Sainsbury’s whose Blair-ennobled Lord (David) Sainsbury donated £4.2 million to the Remain campaign, are available. Watch their share prices start to tank if costs rise from un-sold or perishing stock, as sales slump and profits start to slide.

We don’t need to choose, or continue to use anti-Brexit Branson’s Virgin-branded trains, banking services, or satellite TV. Not only are there alternative online retailers to Amazon available, but can we not do without most of what we buy from Amazon for three months?

Because it could take as short as that. Remember, the modern mass retailing business model is predicated on just-in-time delivery for high-volume sales, thus minimising stock-holding and warehousing costs. A significant interruption to the constant flow of high-volume sales, via a mass customer boycott, has the potential for major logistical problems, a build-up of non-shifting stock, and with all the attendant cost ramifications and effect on profit.

And that has the additional possible effect of reducing the State’s tax take, both from VAT on sales and from corporation tax on company profits further down the line.

You can probably think of many more:  but this final one might, I suspect, be a potential clincher. It exploits the old adage that if you owe the bank £50,000 and can’t repay it, then you have a problem: but if you owe the bank £50,000,000 and can’t repay it, then it’s the bank which has a problem. Because a mass withholding of mortgage payments can affect the entire banking system faster than you might think.

This is where it gets a bit technical, but please bear with me.

It’s all to do with the extra capital which, under international banking standards, a bank must retain, once a mortgage goes into non-performing mode for two or three months. Not only that, but banks then also have to increase the provisions they set aside against default and losses too, so it can be a double-whammy. Provisions are a charge against profits, so it means lower profits, no new lending permitted, & in extremis, restrictions on withdrawals, because liquid deposits can form part of the (greater) capital that suddenly has to be retained.

When a bank lends money, it creates an asset of its own –its right to receive repayment, or the indebtedness of the borrower to the bank. But under those same international banking standards, the bank must assign that asset a risk-weighting, which in turn dictates the amount of capital the bank has to retain against it, and which therefore cannot also be lent.

Lending to sovereign governments, particularly those with good credit ratings, can typically be risk-weighted low. Governments, after all, have the power to tax their citizens, backed by the threat of State coercion, to stump up the money to meet their debts, and so are considered a good risk.

Likewise, lending to good-quality corporates, especially those with a high Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, or Fitch credit-rating, can be risk-weighted only slightly higher than medium-quality sovereign debt.

Basel II Risk Weights

Residential mortgages are typically risk-weighted at 35 per cent to 40 per cent: which means that, for a residential mortgage portfolio totalling, say, £500 billion, the bank must retain, and therefore not lend, a capital base of between £175 billion and £200 billion to support it.

But if a residential mortgage goes into default through non-payment, its risk-weighting has to rise substantially, and can double, to at least 70 per cent to 80 per cent. If a whole £500 billion residential mortgage portfolio went into payment arrears, then the bank would immediately have to set aside between £350 billion and £400 billion against it, not between £175 billion and £200 billion. That’s between £175 billion and £200 million which, suddenly, is no longer available for lending on other, new borrowing, and at a profitable interest-rate margin.

I used to be involved in ‘What If?’ modelling for this kind of contingency: the planning assumed increased mortgage defaults from a major economic crash, but the effects from a mass withholding of mortgage payments aren’t dissimilar.

Clearing banks & building societies, as prime retail lenders, especially, are more vulnerable than often assumed. The shock of a significant part of an entire residential property-mortgage lending book suddenly needing double the previous capital base just to support it is a potential nightmare scenario, particularly for primarily-retail lenders.

And if that newly-doubled capital base is comprised partly of liquid deposits, whose withdrawal has to be restricted, then depositors may start to worry that they may not be able to get their money out. And then you have all the ingredients in place for a bank run. Remember Northern Rock?

It doesn’t stop there. Say the bank decides to foreclose on a mortgage and sell the asset which comprises its security. But banks aren’t in the residential property management business, and don’t want bricks and mortar assets sitting on the books, so they will typically go for a quick sale, even at well below market value, to recover their debt quickly.

Now imagine a small residential close of 20 houses, average market value, say £300,000, but including two whose owners are in default on their £200,000 mortgages, and which the bank as mortgagee is therefore threatening to re-possess and sell.

Residential close

The bank wouldn’t be bothered about market value: it would merely want to recover its debt as fast as possible. So suddenly, two allegedly £300,000 houses are potentially coming up for sale at only £220,000 each. What happens to the market value of the other eighteen? And how do their owners feel about that? Translate that on to a national scale, and suddenly you’re looking at a potential house-price crisis as well.

But, and as Sun Tzu himself might have said, you don’t actually have to create a bank run and/or a house-price crisis – you just have to create the plausible prospect of a bank run and/or a house-price crisis.

To my mind, the ironic beauty of this kind of overall strategy is that, instead of challenging the Remainer Establishment-Elite directly, on the streets, as it would prefer, it instead targets, and in its key aspects – rampant retail consumerism, fractional reserve banking, cheap credit, and a property bubble – the very system which the crony-corporatist globalist oligarchy has created and encouraged at least partially to enrich and empower itself, and then uses it as a weapon against its own creators. Sun Tzu, I suspect, would approve.

These are merely the economic measures. There are others. For example, it needs only six vehicles travelling sedately, but perfectly legally, at 40-50 mph in a horizontal line across all six lanes, to induce motorway gridlock.

In 2000, we saw what just 3,000 people – a mere 0.02 per cent of 17.4 million – so nearly achieved by boxing clever. Just like Sun Tzu favoured, they targeted their opponent where he least expected it, at a point where he was weak, and would have preferred not to fight.Fuel Protests 2000 v1

Imagine what pressure could be brought to bear on a Brexit-denying government and political class by a concerted, concentrated mass participation in a rolling programme of peaceful, non-violent, civic resistance on the same basis.

It feels increasingly unlikely that we’ll succeed in getting our democracy-disdaining political class to implement the democratic result they promised to respect and honour by appealing to their principles, or to their hearts and minds.

But then, as a shrewd, if cynical, man reportedly once said: ‘If you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will soon follow’. 

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Bring on a General Election: and yes, even a hard-Left, Corbyn-led Government

A General Election would provide the opportunity, both for the Conservative defeat needed for it to lance the boil of its own Left-‘Liberalism’, and for the experience of a hard-Left, Corbyn-led Government necessary to lance the boil of Socialism.

Note: this is the long (and updated) version of the article first published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 22 June 2018. 

That Theresa May, on Wednesday 20 June 2018, survived that afternoon’s vote on Tory arch-Remainer Dominic Grieve’s amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill, which sought to give the House of Commons power in effect to halt Brexit in the event of no deal being agreed with the EU, was no victory, but yet another fudge, kicking the can down the road.

It was preceded by a Prime Minister’s Questions of quite staggering awfulness, not only from her, but from almost the entire House, with both sides first fawning over an Imam whose public utterances at the very least imply he wants any criticism of Islam banned, then competing furiously to virtue-signal their achingly politically-correct Left-’Liberal’ credentials at every possible opportunity.

That, plus the long-evident reluctance of most of its overwhelmingly pro-Remain membership to accept and implement the EU Referendum result, finally convinced me. The present Chamber is moribund, even rotten, led by a Prime Minister who is Dead May Walking, and another election is needed.

Why am I so keen on a General Election now? Or, if not keen, nevertheless reluctantly convinced of the necessity for one, despite the potential baleful adverse consequences? For three reasons.

Firstly, with both political attention-span and memory being relatively brief among the vast majority of the public who wisely don’t pay much day-to-day attention to politics, by the time 2022 comes round, many people will have largely forgotten the 2017-18 attempted, if not actual, betrayal of the 2016 EU Referendum result.

Not to mention, also, being bleakly realistic, that some of those now most angry about that betrayal and thirsting for the chance to wreak electoral revenge may, by then, no longer be around to vent that anger at the ballot-box. An early election would mean that voter frustration with both parties has an outlet before it subsides.

Next, the current Vichy-‘Conservative’ Party needs to suffer a heavy defeat, along the lines of the 1906, 1945, and 1997 landslides, to bring about either a split with, or a purge of, its Cameroon-Blairite Left-‘Liberal’ wing, whose current ascendancy is driving the Party Left-wards, both economically and culturally, with dire results.

Remember, in the last year alone, Theresa May has proposed having the State fix the price at which energy suppliers can sell their product: signalled an intent to intervene in the price/demand side of the housing market instead of liberalising planning controls to incentivise supply: threatened to crack down more on ‘hate-crime’ and ‘Islamophobia’, aka free speech: promised to control and police the internet: approved lifestyle and behaviour-nudging taxes: resiled from tackling mass uncontrolled immigration: and proposed throwing another £20 billion at an unreformed NHS while praising it fulsomely in ever more reverential terms.

And that’s before we consider the Miliband-Lite Tories’ eager appeasement of the Green Climate-Change lobby, the racial and religious grievance industries, an increasingly corrupt and partisan United Nations, and, above all, a vengeful and intransigent European Union over Brexit.

This resolute Leftwards march is no temporary expedient, but merely the latest phase in a process which has been going on for years, even decades. The great failings of the ‘Conservative’ party since the end of World War II, with the exception of the 1980s which sadly must now be viewed as an aberration, have been its reluctance to counter the Left intellectually, and its consequent willingness to accept the Left’s policies, especially when attractively packaged, for the sake of occupying office.

Indeed, the writer Peter Hitchens recounts remarks by YouGov’s Peter Kellner, man of Labour and the soft-Left through and through, to the effect that from time to time a Conservative government must be allowed to occupy office, so as to maintain for the electorate an illusion of pluralism and choice, but provided that it does nothing to unravel previous Labour administrations’ policies. Wittingly or unwittingly, the ‘Conservative’ Party has been happy to comply.

The Party therefore needs an unequivocal electoral defeat and period in opposition, to force it to re-think from first principles what it stands for, then devise a portfolio of policies that aren’t merely politically-promising, but intellectually-consistent, in order to be able to capitalise on it when the Corbynite-Labour bubble bursts.

Finally, the boil of Socialism now seemingly infecting so much of the electorate needs to be lanced. But with the increasingly soft Left-‘Liberal’ ‘Conservative’ Party having totally abandoned making a robust case for low-tax, small-State, civil-libertarian, free-market conservatism as the engine of prosperity, freedom and growth, in favour of timidly apeing Socialist-Labour in the vague hope of a few Corbyn-Lite policies enticing voters back, I  cannot see that happening without a new generation of voters experiencing for themselves the malign reality of a hard-Left government.

Psephologically, before the 2017 General Election, the Labour-to-Conservative crossover point – the age at which people switch to voting Conservative rather than Labour – was assumed  to be roughly 34. 

Age predictor UK politics

But the 2017 General Election, the first with Corbyn as Labour leader, changed all that. The post-election analyses moved that crossover point back by an entire decade or more, to somewhere between 44 and 49 . . . . . 

UK GE2017 voting by age groups comp

. . . . . and Labour now enjoys majority support in all voter age groups between 18 and 45, including the highest-ever ratings among under-30s since 1964.

Hist under-30s support Labour & Sep 17 vote intent by age comp

This shouldn’t be altogether surprising. It’s now nearly 40 years since Britain last had an economically-Left Labour Government (in contrast to the culturally-Left governments of all parties which we’ve had for about 35 years), so that almost no-one under the age of, possibly, 55 at least, has any memory or experience of actually living under one.

Add to that two more factors: firstly, the predominantly Left-leaning sympathies of the UK mainstream media, which means Corbyn’s socialist policies are seldom subjected to the critical examination and questioning directed towards their smaller-state, lower-taxes, and free-market leaning equivalents: and, secondly, the left-wing bias of the Education profession by which two generations have been indoctrinated . . . . . .

Teachers voting intentions 2015 & 2017 GEs comp. . . . . . . . and it’s arguably astonishing that Corbyn’s socialist prescriptions, superficially so enticing to those who’ve never suffered them in practice, aren’t even more popular. 

This is why reminders of hard-Left Labour’s insalubrious history of either supporting or at least excusing tyrannical Communist dictatorships – even while it simultaneously condemned the West of human rights, free speech and the rule of law as fascist – cut no ice. The past is truly another country.           

Corbyn does support some bombingThis is why pointing out Corbyn’s uncritical support for the IRA throughout the 1970s and 1980s, even as it was blowing up British women and children on the streets of the United Kingdom, doesn’t resonate. To today’s devotees of the Corbyn Cult, this is ancient history. It’s 30 years since the end of the Cold War, isn’t it? It’s 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement, isn’t it?

This is why warnings of strikes, power-shortages, punitively-high taxes, and fiscal mismanagement from Labour runaway spending and borrowing, have so little political cut-through with voters, from Generation X-ers through Millennials to Generation Z-ers. They’ve never actually seen it in Britain, so they just don’t believe it: and in my view, nothing short of experiencing for themselves the horrors of living under a left-wing Labour government will dispel their illusions.

In short, we’ve arrived at one of those points which seem to occur every 40 years or so, where a major political upheaval is needed to generate political resuscitation and renewal.

Yes, of course there are risks, and very serious ones, from a hard-Left Labour government, and as someone who abhors every manifestation of Leftism, I’m the first to acknowledge them. The Corbyn-McDonnell Terror won’t be pleasant. But capital markets, via demanding higher borrowing rates, and threatened or actual capital flight, via reduced tax receipts, have a habit of curbing the worst excesses of economcally-Left Labour governments.

In any case, is that really so worse than the alternative? Of years of a Continuity-May ‘Conservative’ Party, ever more in thrall to mushy Left-‘Liberalism’, governing hesitantly and ineffectively while the hard-Left poses self-righteously as Salvation Denied?

Just as, to cure a malignant cancer, painful chemotherapy has to be endured, so rejuvenating conservatism and defeating Socialism may require some temporary hurt. But the sooner the treatment starts, the less painful it is, and the sooner comes the cure.

Fortune favours the brave. Bring on that election.

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The Tories Don’t Deserve To Win – Labour Deserves To Lose

Neither the Tories, with their statist, triangulating Manifesto, nor Labour, with its destructive socialist vision, deserve victory in this General Election

In a few hours, this General Election will be all over bar the results and their consequences.  Yet the usual anticipation of Election Night is muted by an almost palpable sense of relief at the approaching end of a campaign offering such a lacklustre, uninspiring choice.

For Theresa May and the Tories  it was supposed to be the Brexit Election: where, wanting both a bigger Parliamentary majority and her own popular mandate to implement it, she would offer a vision of a Britain mitigating the risks but also exploiting the advantages from recovering political and economic sovereignty.

Both, paradoxically, dictate some loosening of State and regulatory shackles on the economy, a facilitation of innovation and entrepreneurship: especially as the economy inevitably goes through a period of uncertainty and flux as powers are repatriated and trading relationships either reset or forged from new. But that isn’t what we’ve got.

The first intimations were reasonably heartening, But then came the Manifesto.

2017 Manifesto on Core Beliefs

Disparaging talk of “untrammeled free markets”, belief in “the good that government can do”, and abhorrence of “inequality”. The context leaves little room for doubt that the offer to voters is one of an interventionist State, concerned not so much with opportunities, but with outcomes.  

Further on, we are promised an Industrial Policy, a National Productivity Investment Fund, worker representation on boards, and a commitment to continue spending 0.7% of GDP on virtue-signalling foreign aid.

Finally, we get to this Greenery-gullible horror. Yet it accompanies a pledge to give British voters “the lowest energy costs in Europe”, notwithstanding that those two aims are mutually incompatible.

Worse still, it’s to be achieved, not by slashing Green taxes and encouraging more competition among energy providers via supply-side measures, but by capping prices: the same policy that, as recently as 2015, the Tories rightly damned as economically-illiterate when included in Labour’s election manifesto by Green-Left Red Ed Miliband.

So, in aggregate, a largely social-democratic policy programme, advocating a version of active-state Rhenish corporatism that would not look out of place in the manifesto of any milquetoast European Christian-Democratic party.

One can speculate endlessly on the reasons why. Possibly they lie in the fact that May is an instinctive paternalist (should that be “maternalist”, I wonder?) technocrat who’s unconvinced of, as Martin Durkin puts it, the potential of free markets to liberate and enrich.

Perhaps, because Labour has gone so far Left, she was persuaded that a Clinton-Blair style triangulation, with the Tories parking their tanks on “moderate” Labour’s lawn, would work electorally. Maybe she was afraid of frightening off the 2 or 3 million Labour voters who voted for Brexit and want to see it happen, and also the One-Nation tendency in her own party still looking for any excuse to derail Brexit. Who knows?

Then there’s been the campaign itself. May  – and it has been almost exclusively May, from battle-bus, through campaign literature, to media, and all points in between – has come across as by turns either robotically evasive, or uncomfortable and unconvincing when pressed on detail.

The forced U-turn on Social Care brought her campaigning deficiencies into sharp focus, but combine that with her natural somewhat leaden, flat-footed demeanour, plus a requirement to face an inquisitorial public & press far more often than she’s ever had to do before, and the result has been, not failure, but certainly sub-par performance.

Both she and her Party, have emerged from the campaign diminished, and not just in opinion-poll ratings, either. “Strong and Stable” has become something of a stick to beat her with. The whole thing has been rather insipid, disappointing, and very far from enthusing.

Consideration of Corbynite-Labour’s hard-Left manifesto need not take us as long. “Insipid” isn’t a description that could remotely be applied to it: “terrifying” or “economically-catastrophic” hardly begins to cover it, such is the red-in-tooth-and-claw programme that unrepentant socialist Jeremy Corbyn has in mind for the country.

The appalling consequences of a Corbyn-led Labour government have comprehensively dissected, with this by Andrew Lilico being merely one of the latest.   

As Lilico points out, fiscally and economically Labour would impose on Britain the highest level of taxation since World War II: the nationalisation, almost certainly without compensation, of the most important industries: a return to widespread (and excess) unionisation: deliberately punitive taxes on financial services designed specifically to deter private capital: and the effective collectivisation of private business property through imposing public interest duties inimical to both private property rights and commercial interest.

Moving from the general to the particular, just one example can suffice to show hard-Left Corbynism’s economic wrong-headedness. Despite favouring continued uncontrolled mass immigration, Labour proposes to deal with the housing shortage by a price-cap on new houses.  

All that that is likely to achieve is a shortage of new houses. If Labour really wanted to boost the supply of low-cost new houses, it would pledge to ease planning restrictions, not threaten to impose State price and even purchaser – priority to State employees, naturally – controls on builders. 

Non-economically, a Corbyn-led Labour government would see restrictions on the police, the reduction of the Army to a notional force only, and the withdrawal of Britain from its role in international security.

And this before even considering the implications of Corbyn’s 30+-year record of not only sympathy but vocal backing for all manner of anti-British, anti-Western groups, including those engaged in active terrorism, even on British soil.

And thus we come to the end of a singularly uninspiring campaign on what should have been the most important election in Britain for decades. The great issue for which it was ostensibly called to reinforce has been barely discussed beyond trite soundbites and banal generalities.

Hard-Left Labour certainly deserves to lose this election, and lose it heavily: but the Conservatives, on their manifesto and especially on their stuttering and lacklustre campaign, really don’t deserve to win it, either.

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The LibDems Can’t Half Pick ‘Em

The LibDem candidate for tomorrow’s Richmond Park by-election is an unconvincing combination of contradictions. She deserves to be defeated.

We’re used to the LibDems occasionally picking slightly iffy parliamentary candidates to contest either General Election or by-election seats.

The case of one Ibrahim Taguri, the alleged “fund-raiser” forced to resign as candidate in Brent Central after a “donations-in-return-for-access” scandal, comes to mind: as does the case of George Cunningham (Chair of “Brussels & Europe LibDems”, incidentally), suspended as parliamentary candidate in Thanet North after allegations of impropriety which included bringing in donations from abroad.

In the case of Sarah Olney, candidate in the Richmond Park by-election being held tomorrow, though, the LibDems appear to have picked a candidate whose problem isn’t so much one, as it were, of convictions, as of contradictions.

Firstly, on the central issue behind the by-election occurring at all, i.e., former Tory Zac Goldsmith’s resignation as an MP on principle to re-stand as an Independent on his declared opposition to Heathrow runway expansion. Olney, as one would expect, both as a Green-tinged LibDem and, to be fair, on local nuisance grounds, is also opposed to the third runway: but here’s the contradiction – her husband is a town planner who played, it appears, a key role in developing Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

olney-richmond-3 That of itself is perhaps a tad awkward, but probably no more than that if fully disclosed – it’s his profession, after all, and everyone has to live – but the contradiction has been exacerbated by her decision to play down the fact almost to the extent of concealing it.

Her campaign leaflets, we learn, make a point of mentioning his “significant experience in implementing large-scale infrastructure projects”, but, er, omit that one particularly “large-scale infrastructure project” he helped to implement was the last-but-one major project at the facility whose expansion she vehemently opposes.

There’s an interesting potential conflict of interest here. If Olney wins, on an overtly anti Heathrow expansion ticket, she acquires all the pecuniary and status rewards of an MP. On the other hand, the development will probably go ahead anyway, so her husband, with his experience, also stands to gain professionally. Win/win for the Olneys?

If she loses – and bear in mind that the least she’s likely to achieve is a good second, because neither the Conservatives nor UKIP are contesting the seat, and the Labour candidate looks like a no-hoper –  she’s no worse off than she is now, and the Heathrow development probably proceeding anyway still stands to benefit her husband.  No-change/win for the Olneys?

The contradiction between the public position (and it’s without doubt sincerely held) and the limited potential for personal downside is intriguing.

That’s the local factor at issue in the Richmond Park by-election. The national one, of course, is the EU Referendum, Brexit, and the desire of the LibDems either to dilute it to the point of virtual impotence or preferably frustrate and overturn it entirely, whether by parliamentary or judicial manoeuvres. Which is where the second contradiction arises.

As you’d expect, and again as a fairly standard LibDem Europhile, Olney is opposed to Brexit. As their candidate in Richmond Park, where over 70% of votes cast in the EU Referendum were for Remain, she’s also an at least implied backer of the anti-democratic Unreconciled Continuity Remain cabal’s machinations – prominent in which are two of the party’s former leaders and also its current one – to delay, diminish and preferably negate it, whether by Judicial Review, parliamentary vote(s) or even by pressing for a second Referendum.

The contradiction here is this: Olney is on record as previously saying that people must accept the UK’s decision to leave the EU, and that the government should not seek to “re-run” the vote.olney-richmond-2She had even gone as far as calling for Leavers and Remainers to “come together”, and “make a success of Brexit”. But with her party leader Tim Farron already having pledged to make the contest a “Brexit by-election”, the question arose as to how Olney would handle such an embarrassing contradiction.

Very much in the same way, it turns out, as she handled the Heathrow contradiction: by concealing it. On the afternoon of 26 October, apparently, she deleted her personal website and its call for the democratic verdict of the British people to be respected. She now suggests that Theresa May should commit to a second Referendum on our EU-exit terms “to buy herself time and negotiating capacity”. That’s quite a U-turn, even for a LibDem…..

When Olney started her campaign, it was mainly, though in fairness not exclusively, a local one. Airport expansion was the key issue, she claimed, and a vote for the LibDems would “make a stand against Heathrow”.

Whether the third contradiction – the switch of primary focus from the local to the national issue – has come about from anti-Brexit conviction or from embarrassment at family connections with Heathrow expansion is a moot point, but come about it most certainly has.

olney-richmond-4Far from being a “stand against Heathrow”, a LibDem victory would now be nothing less than a “Brexit game-changer”, seemingly. [Notwithstanding the fact that it would bring the number of LibDem MPs up from only 8 to only 9, presumably, and hopefully thereby make not one whit of difference to the Government’s proceeding to implement the democratic Referendum result.]

olney-letter-richmond-parkThat was on 23 November. In the space of a mere week, however, it has mutated into something even more momentous. No longer a mere “Brexit game-changer”, the Richmond Park by-election tomorrow is now, we are told, “the most powerful vote you ever cast”. 

Wrong, Sarah. The most powerful vote any of us alive have ever and will ever cast was the vote of 23 June 2016, when no fewer that 17,410,742 of us voted to defy the imprecations and exhortations of the globalist-utopian political, economic, financial and cultural ‘liberal’-elite, and recover our political and economic sovereignty to our own shores and our own ballot-boxes, to be determined democratically by us and us alone.

For that reason above all, it’s important that the LibDems don’t win this by-election.

I’m frankly ambivalent about Zac Goldsmith. His Mayoral campaign was abysmal: his languid environmentalism is a turn-off: his susceptibility to, and collaboration with, Exaro’s rightly now-disgraced “Westminster Paedo Ring” campaign was misguided or worse: and I believe his opposition to Heathrow expansion is strategically wrong.

But I admire his principled decision to abide by his commitment to his constituents over Heathrow, even at political risk to himself: his advocacy of more direct democracy via a proper MPs’ Recall Mechanism: and above all, his unswerving devotion to the Brexit cause. For those reasons alone, I hope he wins.

But there is another. If Goldsmith does manage to win, it will mean that the Europhile, anti-Brexit LibDems, for this by-election allied with the Greens instead of competing with them for the same voter demographic, and in possibly one of the most LibDem-friendly, Remain-supporting, anti-Brexit constituencies in the country, will have failed.

That would send a powerful message to the egregious Farron, Clegg, Ashdown and all their motley crew of embittered, anti-democratic Remainer plotters, intent on ignoring or overturning the expressed will of the people.

And that will be a very fine contradiction indeed.

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Tax-Havens: Also A Force For Good

Far from being solely amoral, piratical facilitators of crime, kleptocracy and evasion, so-called tax-havens in fact also play a valuable role in promoting economic efficiency and curbing State-predation  

Tax havens Panama CitySo-called tax-havens have a bad reputation. In public and political minds, influenced almost wholly by the clamour of either wilfully-ignorant or Leftist-populist media and political hacks, they’re all, without exception, places solely where unsavoury associates of autocrats and plutocrats soak up the sun in between furtively stashing suitcase-loads of ill-gotten gains in anonymous numbered accounts.

As we’ve recently seen all too starkly. Because one of the main features to become glaringly obvious in the Panama Papers leaks, and in the domestic political furore in the UK which has followed it, is a self-evidently widespread inability (or possibly unwillingness) of the politico-media class and commentariat to differentiate the few truly-nefarious tax-havens from the more numerous well-run and properly-regulated offshore financial centres (OFCs) – they are decidedly not the same thing: or to distinguish illegal loot-hiding, money-laundering and tax-evasion, by corrupt despots, criminals and others, from the entirely legal use of OFCs in perfectly legitimate investment and tax-avoidance.

As so often, reality is both more complex, and more nuanced, than media-driven populist perception.

For a start, on the basic issue of definitions. The OECD lists four criteria which a territory or jurisdiction must fulfil in order to qualify as a tax-haven, as opposed to an OFC:

  1. Imposing no, or only nominal, taxes, even domestically
  2. Lack of transparency
  3. Laws and practices that discourage or even prevent automatic exchange of [tax-purposes] information with other governments on the beneficiaries of its tax regime
  4. No stipulation that the activity domiciled in its jurisdiction be substantive

On these criteria, there are relatively few true tax-havens: even the OECD lists only four, and, on its Automatic Exchange Of Information criteria, a mere two.

Tax havens Waterfront Grand CaymanMoreover, and more importantly, the vast majority of the Crown Dependency and British Overseas Territory OFCs, which Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn incorrectly labelled as tax-havens and proposed arbitrarily supplanting their democratically-elected governments to place them under direct rule from Westminster, don’t even fall into the “tax-havens” category at all.

So when no-one seriously opposes measures to prevent, detect and punish both those who undertake criminal tax-evasion, money-laundering and loot-concealment and the few residual disreputable genuine tax-havens which do facilitate them, the real objections by governments, commentators and so-called social-justice campaigners to the legitimate use of OFCs or any low-tax jurisdictions must originate from elsewhere.

Those objections arise from two principal, and unsurprising, sources. Firstly, the misunderstanding, derived from popular fallacies, of the economic good that low-tax jurisdictions promote: and secondly, the competitive threat they represent to the otherwise-unconstrained power of high-taxing, high-spending states to extract taxes from their economies and populations almost ad infinitum.

To address one of the most popular fallacies – that money deposited in OFCs or low-tax jurisdictions is somehow irretrievably “lost” to the global economy. This is just arrant nonsense.

First, it wrongly assumes there is a fixed amount of global capital whose geographical distribution creates a zero-sum game, where any partial deployment of it to Location A must automatically reduce that available in Locations B-Z. In fact global capital is both dynamic, and fungible, and continues being created in those parts of the so-called “losing” mainstream onshore economies that aren’t sensitive to geographically-differing tax rates.

Tax Havens BermudaSecond, it assumes that all capital deployed to low-tax jurisdictions stays there, static. This isn’t necessarily the case – small islands generally don’t have much potential for domestic infrastructure investment or large-scale economic activity – and it’s especially not the case in a period of low or even negative real interest rates. Although the total of assets located in an OFC may change only slowly, that ignores the stock-vs-flow issue, where many of its components parts may be being directed into other forms of investment in other locations, and subsequently repatriated, on a regular basis.

Inasmuch, too, as the location of capital and/or assets in the low-tax jurisdiction encourages their investment to generate a return not achievable if based in a higher-tax jurisdiction, the OFC is actually promoting more FDI in the investment location. In this way, the availability of low-tax OFCs makes them conducive to an increase in overall international investment and in global capital, not its depletion. They are not “poaching more than their fair share” of international capital, but acting as a conduit for its more productive and optimal investment back into mainstream onshore economies.

Third, international systems of taxation don’t always cope well with avoiding the dangers of double-taxation. If you’re an investor (and remember, you may well be, even via an ISA or your employer’s pension scheme) in a fund set up in a country that levies a withholding tax on redemption payouts, but those redemption payouts aren’t taxable domestically in your own country, then recovering the tax that’s been wrongly withheld from you is going to be difficult. By providing a tax-neutral environment, low-tax OFCs perform a valuable role in making sure that your investment, even an indirect one, isn’t taxed twice. That benefits you.

Tax havens Mossack Fonseca PanamaFourth, the fallacy assumes the “losing” country is automatically forced to raise its own domestic tax-rates to replace the tax-revenue “lost” when assets are relocated to a low-tax OFC. Countries, however, don’t operate in isolation from their international environment: lower tax-rates in other jurisdictions act as a restraint on mainstream onshore governments’ own tax-rate policies. Both firms and workers in those economies therefore benefit in purely micro-economic terms from overseas low-tax OFCs, in the form of lower taxes domestically than might be levied otherwise.

Next, low-tax OFCs also fulfil a vital function in providing a safe harbour for wealth legitimately created and held, against the tendency of inherently corrupt, dictatorial  & kleptocratic regimes to predate on it.

Depending on the definitions chosen, there are approximately 170-190 countries in the world: but only a minority are full democracies where the government is subject to the rule of law and scrutiny by a free Press. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2014 in fact lists a mere 24 as full democracies and a further 52 as flawed, out of a total of the 167 rated, leaving over 90 regimes described as either hybrid or (the majority) authoritarian. Perhaps not surprisingly, there’s a correlation between the latter categories and the Transparency International Corruptions Index 2015’s assessment of the most corrupt countries.

Most & Least Corrupt Countries 2014

These are countries where even if, against all the odds, an honest entrepreneur, investor or businessman manages legitimately to amass capital and assets, they are liable to be arbitrarily seized at any time by the regime, either unashamedly or via a quasi-criminal or complicit judiciary, and confiscated. By existing at all, low-tax OFCs furnish a safe refuge for such assets. In this role, rather than encouraging or facilitating corruption, they are in fact operating so as to thwart it.

Benefits of Tax CompetitionLastly, low-tax OFCs form a valuable macro-economic brake on the overall ability of excess-spending, excess-taxing governments to otherwise levy punitively-high taxes without restraint. In the absence of the tax-rate competition provided by lower-taxing jurisdictions, it’s unlikely that governments, viscerally-disinclined on both ideological and electoral grounds to curtail State intervention and largesse, would not take the opportunity to impose economically-damaging higher taxes generally. 

It’s primarily for this reason that the member-states of supranational political unions like the EU are so enthused by the prospect of cross-border harmonisation of taxes, or centralised democracy-proof pan-European fiscal control, as the corollary to curbing the legitimate activities of low-tax offshore financial centres. 

The vocal but unthinking critics of low-tax OFCs, in their haste to condemn what they see as the obvious, miss a point – that they are also a force for good. The existence, and legitimate activities, of low-tax OFCs both promote greater economic, capital-allocation and investment efficiency, and indirectly benefit employers, employees and consumers in the mainstream onshore economies by protecting them from excess State predation.     

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Why The Red Lights All Show Green

In theory, Environmentalism ought to be a conservative, or at least apolitical, philosophy: but, in its politicised Climatism mutation, it’s been captured and exploited by the Left and Centre-Left, as a means to pursue Leftist ends 

Between small-“c” conservatism, especially in its classical Burkean tradition, and environmentalism in that word’s true, literal sense, there should, on the face of it, be a natural philosophical affinity.

Burkean conservative thought holds that society makes better progress, and simultaneously better preserves its legacy for future generations, not by the tearing-down of its structures and customs in orgies of radical, revolutionary fervour: but by preserving and perpetuating, though also adapting, established social, political and cultural institutions that have stood the test of time.

Englands green & pleasant landIt contends that the environment in which we find ourselves, not only the social, economic and cultural but also the physical, is not ours exclusively to re-make afresh solely out of desire to indulge the narcissism of the immediate, or even just to satisfy present needs; that we are not its absolute, unfettered owners, but trustees, stewards and custodians: that the corollary of societal betterment is an obligation to safeguard for those who have gone before the inheritance which they bequeathed to us, and in turn to pass it on as our legacy to generations yet unborn.

On this argument, then, environmentalism – in that word’s true, literal, sense – should be primarily a concern of philosophical conservatives – even its “conservation” synonym suggests as much.

Yet, because of the well-documented hijacking of the environmental movement by the hard-Left following the fall of the Berlin Wall, it’s now across that part of the ideological spectrum that spans from far/hard-Leftism to Cameroon ‘Liberal’-Centrism where the new politicised Environmentalism predominates.

cover climatism steve gorehamA better name for it than “Environmentalism” is Climatism, after Steve Goreham’s excellent book of the same name, debunking its dubious scientific claims and political prescriptions. It bears little resemblance to Environmentalism in its original, true, conservation-oriented roots: Climatism is its mutation into the more familiar, stridently-collectivist, statist, anti-capitalist, intolerant-of-dissent, authoritarian secular Green Religion – eco-socialism, eco-fascism, eco-communism, or whatever specific eco-variety of Leftism one cares to assign it.

And so, unsurprisingly, it’s politicians ranging from Hard-Left to ‘Liberal’-Centre – perhaps we should just call them Climatists as convenient shorthand, to save time agonising over whether they’re eco-socialists, eco-fascists, eco-communists, or just eco-opportunists – who seem regularly to place the most reliance on it, to justify almost anything. As can be seen from merely a quick selection from the UK political scene in the last month or so.

natalie bennett green party spring conf 2016First out of the traps, as you might expect, are those über-Climatists, the Green Party. In her keynote speech to its 2016 Spring Conference, leader Natalie Bennett employed well-worn Climatism-misanthropic memes to bemoan both the availability of relatively-inexpensive, reliable energy, and the greater mobility and travel opportunities which our 21st century prosperity has brought within the reach of vast numbers:

“The government is encouraging, subsidising, the frackers, the oil-drillers, the destructive open-cut coal miners. It’s promoting new roads and new airport runways”

Not content with that, Bennett went on to propose in effect  State control, not merely of monetary policy, but money creation itself, and also its deployment into the economy:

“We must build a future with a new system of money creation that puts resources into the real economy rather than casino finance”  

Red Ed pro-EU speech Mar 16But here, for example, adducing Climatism to advocate Britain’s continued membership of the EU, is Labour’s Red (or rather, Green-Left) Ed Miliband – progenitor of arguably the most damaging piece of legislation ever passed by Parliament, and written at his invitation by Friends Of The Earth’s deep-Green ideologue Bryony Worthington, the 2008 Climate Change Act – in his recent pro-Remain speech:

“That’s why we need to be in the European Union. Take the most important threat of all: climate change. It just isn’t realistic to think one country can do this on its own. It’s only EU legislation that is forcing any action from this Government”

There are, incidentally, at least three blatant falsehoods contained in those short four sentences, but for the purposes of this argument, we’ll let that pass.

Jezza Corbyn straight talkingHere too, this time enlisting Climatism in the cause of State-directed investment, control of markets, and curbs on business freedom, is Labour’s Hard-Left leader Jeremy Corbyn:

“We need a state that invests. This means we can shape markets and shape the goods they produce. All of this must be driven by democracy in the production of energy.”

Tim Farron Spring Conf 2016Now, also embracing Climatism to justify a vote to stay in the EU, comes Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, in his speech to the party’s Spring Conference:

“We face vast international challenges: climate change, the refugee crisis, a global economy. Do we best tackle these together or on our own? We are stronger together. We are Stronger In.”

aileem mcleod snp spring conf 2016Next up, citing Climatism as justification for greater wealth redistribution and overseas aid, administered and dispensed at one remove from full democratic accountability and control, is the SNP’s Scottish Government “Climate-Change” Minister, (suitably-attired in Green, naturally) Aileen McLeod:

“We have doubled the innovative Climate Justice Fund, a global first that is supporting some of the world’s poorest communities to deal with the impact of climate change”

Nicky Morgan 4

Finally, impeccably metropolitan-Cameroon ‘Liberal’-Centrist Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, blatantly and desperately recruiting Climatism as a helper to try and win over the self-appointed trendy and the youth vote in the Government’s increasingly flailing and fear-mongering campaign to keep Britain in the EU, in her pro-Remain speech of 29 March:

“Whether it’s tackling poverty or protecting the environment and tackling climate change, young people know that our voice and impact are magnified by playing a leading role through the EU” 

It’s nigh-on impossible not to be struck by the remarkable, and consistent, similarity between many of the prescriptions advanced by Climatism and the Climatists, and policies that are recognisable Hard-Left, Centre-Left and even ‘Liberal’-Centrist shibboleths, but for which they struggle to gain popular consent if advanced openly via the normal democratic process. To document the main ones:

Democracy-bypassing supranationalism.

Unlike UKIP and the Conservative Right, all the parties referenced explicitly favour removing swathes of public-policy decision-making away from domestic dependency on voter consent to mainly unelected, unaccountable, anti-democratic supranational bureaucracies.

The SNP knows its peculiar variety of nationalist state-socialism, while presently-dominant in Scotland, has minimal, if any, political traction south of the border. The LibDems and the Greens are psephologically near-irrelevant. Labour, in its post-Blairite iteration and despite its lip-service platitudes, has never really trusted democracy to back its policies since its three successive shattering defeats of the 1980s. The currently-reigning social-democratic, paternalist, ‘liberal’-Cameroon wing of the Conservatives openly disdains the Party’s robust classical-liberal pluralists.

Club of Rome New Enemy quote

To all of these, the attraction of ensuring the implementation of electorally-unobtainable policy, by re-locating its origination and direction well away from vulnerability to democratic rejection, is irresistible. And what better ostensible justification for it could there be than the supranational regionalist or even globalist eco-stewardship they assert is inseparable from Climatism?

Thus, their near-unanimous support for, in particular, Britain’s continued EU membership, with its incipient pan-EU supranational energy-union and emissions-trading scheme which Green campaign groups still insist is not climate-policy at all, but a neo-industrial policy.

Greater State control of monetary policy, economy and markets.

Hard-Left Labour and the Greens are at least quite open about it. Between them, they overtly intend, in the name of Climatism, a much more economically-interventionist and controlling State: one that not only usurps control of monetary policy from an independent central bank, but also inclines towards almost directing producers what to produce and even consumers what to buy. As near to Soviet-style central planning, in fact, as the West has seen since that model’s deserved ignominious collapse in failure in the 1980s.

But they’re by no means alone. All the featured parties favour more State involvement in the economy to some degree or other, and in some way or other. Think of the LibDems’ Green Investment Bank: the Cameroons’ risibly ill-designed and ill-fated Green Deal: and the eco-benefits claimed by Osborne to justify his ludicrously-expensive and crony-corporatist deal with EFD and China over the Hinkley Point nuclear power facility.

Higher Taxes.

Climatism offers ample opportunities with which to justify the increase in the State’s overall tax take, and therefore its share of national GDP, that so beguiles the hard-Left, the Fabian “Progressives”, and the paternalist ‘Liberal’-Centrists alike. Beguiles them, because common to them all are the Left-ish –

  1. assumption of the State as indispensable and irreplaceable enabler:
  2. conviction that the State really does know better than the citizen how his money should be spent: and
  3. innate distrust of leaving wealth, as Gladstone put it, to “fructify in the pockets of the people”.

Higher eco-taxes on petrol and diesel, in addition to excise duty and VAT, which mean that tax of one kind or another accounts for up to 70% of the pump price. Green levies and taxes aimed at “carbon” reduction, to be recouped from domestic consumers, and which load their energy bills by up to 15%. Environmental obligations imposed on businesses, but which inevitably have to be passed on to the purchasers or consumers of their products in higher prices. Air Passenger Duty, supposedly a targeted incentive for reduced “carbon” emissions, but in reality an indiscriminate, scatter-gun, catch-all tax on overseas holidays and business.

These aren’t direct taxes, in the sense that they’re visible deductions from monthly or weekly pay-slips: they’re more insidious, in that they’re indirect, or hidden, secondary-effect, stealth taxes. But here’s the sting – they still come out of the poor taxpayer’s same wallet or bank account, and they still wind up in the same Treasury till for disposing by the State that, remember, knows best. Leftists of all persuasions love that.

Forced Income and Wealth Redistribution.

Climatism’s high apostles make no secret of the redistributive aims of the secular Green Religion. Here, for example, are Ottmar Edenhofer, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, and former Canadian Environment Minister, Christine Stewart: they make no attempt to conceal the true, socialist-redistributive objectives of globally-directed, nation-state democracy-immune Climatism.Edenhofer-Stewart comp 2

It doesn’t require a great leap of the imagination to discern the same sentiments in Bennett’s “putting resources into the real economy”, or the SNP’s “Climate Justice” Fund: as Friedman, especially, shows us, any movement with “Justice” as its suffix is almost unfailingly in reality a campaign for wealth/income abstraction and redistribution via State-coercion. And the universal support among our chosen Party luminaries for Britain’s continuing EU membership is a pointer, too: the EU seeks ever-more control over member-states’ economic and fiscal policies, with greater distribution explicitly included in its aims.

Curtailment of Personal Freedom.

The broad church that constitutes the Left in its widest sense distrusts individual liberty: philosophically, it remains in thrall to the Rousseauian concept of the human born pure but corrupted by his surroundings: to the inherent perfectibility of human society, given only sufficient power residing in the hands of the State. Climatism furnishes myriad openings to justify the extension of restrictions on personal freedom – and in how noble and incontrovertible a cause! – nothing less than the salvation of the planet itself.

Thus the increasing exhortations against flying (remember the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas, equating flying to Spain on holiday with murder by stabbing?), and the public implicit shaming of those whom the self-appointed arbiters of eco-propriety deem to have exceeded their allocated entitlement: the vocal disapproval of food choices on the laughably-flawed “logic” of grazing-space or food-miles: the drive to install smart-meters or third-party control systems into private homes to monitor, and even remotely-curb, energy consumption.

 Intolerance and Suppression of Dissent.

Few political movements have exhibited the vicious intolerance of dissent from the Green orthodoxy for which Climatism is, rightly, reviled – with the possible exception, that is, of those found in totalitarian states.

Dispute the received wisdom, that the mere 3% of atmospheric CO2 that results from human activity is catastrophically dangerous while the residual 97% that results entirely from natural climatological phenomena somehow isn’t, and you will be met, not with an attempted explanation (because there isn’t one, apart from the basic premise being wrong), but ad-hominem abuse, usually including an adverse judgment or three disparaging your moral worth as well as your motives.

Challenge why global average temperatures have been flat for 19 years despite continued rising atmospheric CO2, and you will be called, not an adherent to Popper’s Scientific Method, but the catch-all insult of “denier” – which is quite rich, considering that Climatists, to cling to the Green Orthodoxy, are themselves forced to deny 4½ billion years of more or less constant climate change, ever since the Earth’s formation, and often far more dramatic than any over which Climatism professes to agonise.

Confront the quaint notion that increased floods from (entirely natural) climate change are better prevented, not by improving flood defences but subsidising inefficient, expensive renewables off the backs of the poor’s energy bills, and you will be treated, not with discussion but with ferocious scorn and derision (but little else).

This is pure Leftist technique, the late 20th/early 21st century manifestation of what’s in Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals (from which Obama, incidentally, draws so much of his inspiration). “Your views are so self-evidently morally-repugnant (alternative: “driven solely by greed“)”, goes the Leftist narrative, “that they absolve me from any obligation even to debate the issue with you at all, especially as my aims are noble and altruistic, so that their ends in any case justify whatever means are required to realise them“. It’s called Shutting Down The Argument. Leftists (and Climatists) deploy it routinely.

None of this multi-faceted consistency of aims and policies between Leftism and Climatism should surprise, given the historical circumstances in which they came together. The 1989 collapse of Soviet-style communism and the end of the Cold War deprived the Left almost overnight of the models – economic, cultural, societal and geo-political – which for 70 years it had revered as inspiration for and validation of its state-authoritarian, collectivist, anti-capitalist, anti-Western philosophy.

The nascent environmental movement was the ideal candidate to replace it. It offered, not just an alternative justification for totalitarian-inclined, anti-capitalist, anti-Western, anti-freedom disaffection, but one with an even wider potential: this time, the oppressed victims, deemed to be in need of salvation from exploitation and subjugation by liberty, capitalism and free-markets, were not merely the downtrodden working-class masses: they were humanity in its entirety, and even the Earth itself.

Green New Red 3As described and referenced above, the takeover of the environmental movement by the hard-Left proceeded over the next 10 years or so, and it continues to this day, to the extent that Green and Socialist policies and outlooks are now virtually indistinguishable from each other on the Left of the politico-ideological spectrum.

It’s why the prescriptions advanced by and in the name of the secular Green Religion of Climatism bear such an uncanny, but strictly non-accidental resemblance to what Leftist political-economy has long advocated. Green really is the New Red. The red lights of politics, from the palest tinge of pink to the deepest shade of crimson, are all showing Green.

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The Heseltine Fascination

Chancellor George Osborne’s enduring deference to Michael Heseltine’s 1970s model of state-crony corporatism will lead to poor policy, regionally and nationally

Osborne budget boxUnderstandably, most of this week’s post-Budget reaction focussed on two things – Osborne’s continuing failure to ameliorate Britain’s worsening structural fiscal position, and the introduction of the illiberal (and almost certain to be largely-ineffective) sugar tax.

Less noticed, however, was how two Osborne announcements reveal, not only his ongoing attachment to the 1970s-style state-crony corporatism epitomised by (Lord) Michael Heseltine, but even his enduring fascination for Heseltine himself.

The first instance came just after Osborne’s reference to the Greater London Authority moving towards full retention of its business rates. He added:

“Michael Heseltine has accepted my invitation to lead a Thames Estuary Growth Commission and he will report to me with its ideas next year.”

To anyone familiar with the history of Heseltine’s political-economy, this should have rung warning bells. First, the very name “Thames Estuary Growth Commission” itself carries connotations of the semi-bureaucratic, state-interventionist, “Government picking winners” model of infrastructure development that Heseltine has long so admired (and of which more later).

ebbsfleet-map 2014 v3Second, it recalled Osborne’s previous, and underwhelming, foray into Thames Estuary development. In the 2014 Budget, he announced, to the now habitual fanfare, that “Britain’s first Garden City in 100 years”, including 15,000 houses, would be built at Ebbsfleet. Critics, however, soon pointed out that a mere 15,000 houses hardly amounts to a Garden City, plus the inconvenient fact that Ebbsfleet itself, sitting on a flood-plain with an average height of just 2 metres above sea level, bordering the Thames Estuary, might be a, shall we say, less-than-ideal site for a new Garden City.

 Two years later, just 65 of the planned 15,000 houses have been built.

Then, shortly afterwards, Osborne named-checked the National Infrastructure Commission (beginning to sound familiar?) which he’d established under the aegis of the Treasury last year, and proclaimed the following:

“They recommend much stronger links across northern England. So we are giving the green light to High Speed 3 between Manchester and Leeds”

HS3 would, of course, be an extension of HS2, which is itself far from certain to go ahead, being mired in controversy:

  • Its projected cost has risen inexorably from even the risibly-low estimate of £50 billion once peddled unconvincingly by the Government, which, astonishingly, excluded off-balance-sheet costs.
  • It would have to be funded almost exclusively by borrowing, when the National Debt is already £1.5 trillion and rising.
  • HS2 IEA WellingsIts claims for economic regeneration of the North are dubious.
  • It is, and is likely to remain, beset by planning approval disputes and housing-blight claims, for years.
  • Its claimed service improvements could be met by lower-cost alternatives.

HS2’s flaws were comprehensively and forensically exposed by Dr Richard Wellings’ 2014 paper for the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Heseltine Infrastructure CommissionTurn now to Osborne’s National Infrastructure Commission itself. Who does one find adorning the ranks of its Commissioners? Why, none other than ……. Michael Heseltine.

Heseltine was recruited into the Treasury, with Osborne’s approval, to “advise” on infrastructure development and urban renewal, because of his 2012 report “No Stone Unturned In Pursuit Of Growth” that purported to be a putative blueprint for stimulating economic growth.

In its 89 recommendations, however, over 80 of which the Coalition accepted, it presented in miniature a picture of the interventionist-government corporatist state of the 1960s and 1970s: the decades in which Heseltine cut his political teeth, and for which its practitioners could, despite its manifest flaws, conceive no alternative.

It showed that Heseltine remains an unrepentant apologist and enthusiast for Big Government: that his vision for stimulating economic growth is one of national industrial policy, governmental top-down oversight, regional-quango consensus investment, local council-level enterprise partnerships with spending grants. For Heseltine, Adam Smith’s invisible hand must, it seems, be subsumed within multiple layers of statist-corporatist glove.

Heseltine no stone unturnedHis is an approach that instinctively eschews solutions based on economic liberalisation, deregulation and free markets: like regional pay to mitigate any crowding-out effect of nationally-set pay rates, especially in the public sector, on local job opportunity uptake: like encouraging more non-State free schools and academies, with the freedom to adjust their curricula to make them attractive to students who will be seeking employment in the area: and like, above all, unblocking the planning process in which so many developments can get bogged down.

He appears to favour what he termed “growth funds” being allocated through new Local Enterprise Partnerships. But given that the money would come from people and businesses via the tax system in the first place – Government has no money of its own – quite why government and the local quangocracy would be better judges of investment potential than savers, investors and businesses themselves was not explained. Not much of Gladstone’s enjoinder to let money “fructify in the pockets of the people” there.

Heseltine’s recommendations were roundly criticised at the time by a Professor of Economic Geography at the LSE(!), no less, as “a return to policies, many of them not particularly successful, that were developed in different times, to tackle different challenges”. It’s difficult to suggest these words don’t equally apply in 2016.

The FT’s Janan Ganesh wrote in late 2012 that Heseltine’s prescription for encouraging infrastructure development was very much a Gaullist vision. This still resonates: Heseltine’s vision is more akin to France’s state-dirigisme of Les Grands Prôjets: yet it’s in France where the State’s share of GDP persists at an unsustainably-high 50+%, unemployment is at levels not seen for two decades, and competitiveness continues to fall.

osborne delivers budget 16mar16Osborne’s reverence for Heseltine is misguided, and counter-productive. To stimulate the infrastructure growth of the future, Britain needs, not reheated 1970s-style regional industrial policy predicated on state-interventionism, but a comprehensive supply-side revolution. We need a smaller state, lower, simpler and flatter taxes, less-onerous workplace regulation, a freer and more responsive education system, and a major reform of planning law.

Sadly though, while we have a Chancellor of the Exchequer so ideologically in hock to Heseltine’s state-crony corporatism, that will remain an impossible dream.

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