04 July 2024

Pity the UK

Pity the UK today. I lived there for fourteen years, five years under the Blair/Brown hate-hate partnership (oh they loathed each other, but needed each other) and then watched as the Conservatives squandered multiple electoral mandates by, in most cases, doing little substantial to address the growing issues the country faced.

It seems most likely the UK will vote to give Labour a significant majority, in part because Keir Starmer seems benign and stable, and in large part because Starmer has either cauterised or silenced the lunatic communist/post-modernist rump that cheered on the friend of Hamas, Jeremy Corbyn (now purged from the party).  Starmer gains largely because the Conservatives have almost entirely failed to deliver on what voters wanted from them in 2019, but he is also gaining because of the implosion, at last, of Scottish socialist nationalism in the form of the corrupt SNP.  That band of Anglophobic Marxists, whose excuse for poor performance was always to blame the English, have finally tired Scots enough that they’ll swing back to Labour largely.

Although it is patently obvious from the coverage of the BBC, ITV, Sky News and the Guardian that much of the media is chomping at the bit to see Labour elected, there is little real sign that Starmer can deliver much other than stability.  Public debt under the Conservatives went from 71% of GDP to 98%, and only a fraction of that increase came from action on Covid. There will be much talk of the end of “austerity” which was a myth, as the Conservatives raised spending on health, education and welfare, increased debt and more lately increased taxes. The state sector in the UK is at levels not seen since the 1940s – when Labour was in power bringing “democratic socialism” through large-scale nationalisation of much industry from coal to railways to bus services to steelworks, all preceding the decades of relative decline of Britain compared to its war damaged equivalents on the continent. 

To say the Conservatives have been disappointing is an understatement. The first five years saw David Cameron, a man who was far too guilty about his gilded upbringing that his focus was on atoning for the industrial revolution by slashing emissions and in pouring money down the endless maw of the state religion – aka the NHS. His main techniques for doing that were to kneecap electricity generation using fossil fuels whilst not enabling much new generation to be built at all – except for a highly subsidised nuclear power plant being built, still, by French and Communist Chinese companies.  There might have been more nuclear power plants, but his even more useless Deputy Prime Minister – Nick Clegg of the poorly named “Liberal Democrats” (for they are neither liberal nor democrats) didn’t want more nuclear power stations because, in 2010, he said they wouldn’t open until 2021 or 2022.  The Liberal Democrats did hogtie the Conservatives in their first term. One of Cameron’s most ludicrous moves was in stopping a third runway being built at Heathrow Airport, only to commission a report on options to address airport capacity in the UK, which after the following election recommended (like the two previous report on the issue) building a third runway at Heathrow. Bumbling Dave’s original promise was part of his kneejerk reactionary approach to climate change. However he was keen on building high-speed rail, so ran with Gordon Brown’s proposal to build a ridiculously expensive new railway from London to Birmingham and then onto Manchester and Leeds, because “climate change” and his other trendy term “levelling up” (code for trying to make the North as wealthy as London through state intervention).  Of course neither the third runway, nor any of the high speed rail line are open, because more fundamentally, Britain has a planning system designed to stop anything being built anywhere.  Houses, airports, businesses, railway lines, power stations, are all stopped because most politicians – Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens and yes Reform/UKIP – are NIMBYs, and don’t want anything built near anyone who whinges. 

So during that first term Cameron’s achievements were to significantly boost NHS spending, to raise state spending on foreign aid to 0.7% of GDP (to atone for Britain’s imperial past and to show him to not be “nasty”), and hold a referendum on Scottish independence, which was narrowly won by the “no” side. He did of course buy the pensioner vote with the “triple lock” on the UK’s state pension system, which promised it would rise each year by the highest of inflation, average earnings or 2.5%, an enormous wealth transfer from future generations to current pensioners. So after five years governing as a “wet” David Cameron successfully defeated the more hopelessly wet Ed Miliband in the 2015 election, and also cut the Liberal Democrats back to a rump and gained a majority in his own right. He also gained support from the EUsceptic wing of his party by promising a referendum on EU Membership and negotiated a weak “deal” to help convince voters to stay in the EU. Of course, getting a EUphilic Prime Minister to negotiate a deal to placate EUscepticism was doomed to fail, and so the 2016 EU referendum was a disaster for him.  The UK voted to leave the EU, in part because of xenophobia towards some EU migrants (mainly from the poorest countries in the east), but also being fed up with the attitude of the EU towards the UK. The UK was seen as needing rules generated from Brussels for “solidarity” and of course the EU’s economic policy was dominated by a highly protectionism dirigisme model. David Cameron found the vote too hard so just resigned like the gutless spin doctor that he is. So then the UK got Theresa May.

The UK’s second female Prime Minister was, however, very unlike the first. May was more wet that Cameron, was enamoured by a nanny state that embraced new rules and regulations on personal behaviour, and wanted more intervention in the economy and in society.  She didn’t support Brexit, which of course hardly helped in her negotiating a deal with Brussels, but her fatal mistake was her conceit in seeking an electoral mandate in 2017 because she thought she could destroy Labour with its newly elected Trotskyite terrorist sympathising leader Jeremy Corbyn.  In fact she destroyed her electoral majority, as Corbyn rode on a wave of moronic Marxist students and media commentators who embraced his highly principled stand for socialism, as he lifted multiple backbench MPs from the sewers where most of them resided, onto his front bench. This included luminaries like Diane Abbott who once said on TV she thought Chairman Mao did more good than harm.  The Conservatives lost seats and Labour gained 40% of the vote on a socialist platform. It was only because the Democratic Unionist Party (hardline Protestant unionists from Northern Ireland) were willing to grant the Conservatives confidence and supply that May was able to govern.  

May limped on for two years of ineffective government during which the UK suffered from horrendous Islamist terrorist attacks at Manchester Arena, Westminster Bridge and London Bridge, and she proved she couldn’t negotiate a Brexit agreement that would obtain either Parliamentary support or support from Brussels. She passed the banner to Boris Johnson, who proved, much like when he was Mayor, to be a loudmouth blowhard attention seeker, who is better placed to be a comic character and writer than a serious politician.  Johnson’s greatest achievement was in the 2019 seeing off Corbyn and his band of terrorist sympathising thugs, anti-semites and communists, and seeing an unprecedented level of Conservative support for “getting Brexit done”. The problem with Johnson is that his rhetoric wasn’t matched by action, not least because his relatively new wife was infected with the same guilt complex posh Tories have about their lives, so it saw him double down on climate change policy, and do next to nothing to address issues around economic productivity, the unsustainable health and welfare systems and the perpetual housing crisis, let alone increasing issues of urban crime in major cities. 

Johnson did deliver a Brexit deal that would have given the UK freedom to innovate, to liberalise regulation around much of the economy, but he squandered his chance. Brexit and support for Ukraine were his greatest achievements, but after all that, there is next to nothing. Yes, the pandemic didn’t help, but neither did his “I don’t give a damn about the truth” approach to the rules he instituted during the pandemic. There were ample opportunities to liberalise laws from shop trading (big shops still can’t open all day Sunday in most of the UK), to planning, to financial services, but no.  He could have greatly simplified taxes, lowering costs to businesses, but no.  He could have scrapped vanity projects like HS2, but no, because the man is a vanity project in himself.

Johnson gave way to Liz Truss (third female Prime Minister) whose fatal mistake was not in her intentions, but in her and her Chancellor’s inability to judge the markets’ reaction to massive tax cuts that aren’t accompanied by spending cuts.  That sheer stupidity was naïve, and has set back the cause of free market liberalism in the UK for many years. She was inept as a leader, and had to go, but having Rishi Sunak as PM (first PM of Indian descent) was a step back to the days of David Cameron and the wets. Sunak has raised taxes, promised compulsory national service and although has a handful of Ministers with much promise (notably Kemi Badenoch, who carries the mantle for serious free market liberalism), it’s just a long line of disappointment.

So the Conservatives need to go, they are not entitled to rule, and those who join them because they want to tell others what to do, need to be purged.  The only shining light of the Conservative Government is in education, where free schools have opened up enormous opportunities for tens of thousands of school students to have education that their parents wanted, rather than what local authorities wanted. It will be very difficult to Labour to curtail that, except by stopping further expansion.  However, beyond that, and leaving the EU, there is little to be proud of.

Labour is on the frontline of Critical Constructivism, or what too many call “wokism”. So there is absolutely no hope of any progress under Starmer. The much more revolting Liberal Democrats, who are essentially middle class curtain twitching Greens, are even worse. There’s nothing liberal about them, they are NIMBYs on steroids who hate free markets and love the bureaucratic collectivism of the EU.  

What about Nigel Farage and Reform? There is some inherent appeal in a party that does appear to have some semblance of a belief in less government, and resisting critical constructivism, but Farage is a spiv. Until recently he was taking money for hire for people wanting a short video of him wishing a relative or friend Happy Birthday or any other sort of greeting. He’s now embracing being chief vandal of the Conservative Party, but it is difficult to determine what, if any, principles this media star embraces. It does seem like he is likely to actually win a seat in Parliament after his 8th try.  We will see what Reform contributes to the House of Commons.

Regardless of the outcome, it is obvious that nothing will be done in the UK to address the biggest problems facing the country.

Health policy is almost impossible to efficiently address because the NHS is a national religion. No other developed country lionises a bureaucracy like the UK does for one of the world’s largest civilian bureaucratic employers. To criticise “our NHS” is almost like questioning Islam in Tehran, and makes politicians on left and right blubber and foam at the mouth, before uttering incoherent bile that “we don’t want to be like America”, as if the world has two health systems to choose from. Labour will pour more money down the maw that is the health-professional dominated and run NHS, and in five years’ time people will still be complaining about it, and still will resist a real alternative – like a European style universal health insurance scheme (which Nigel Farage has surprisingly endorsed). Spending on the NHS has risen as a proportion of GDP from 7.5% to 8.2% in the last 14 years, but of course it is never enough.

Likewise, housing is impossible to address because of the Town and Country Planning Act which nationalised decisions on the use of land to local authorities, all of which are dominated by NIMBYs from across the spectrum.  Whether it be building up or out, most councils don’t like housing being built, unless they get to specify it, and impose conditions like “40% affordable”, which makes it difficult to built housing for a mid-market that wont pay to cross-subsidise below cost building, or banning car parks (because cars are bad as they create congestion, but only two councils have ever implemented congestion pricing because none of them actually want to make driving easier).  Labour wont fix housing because it wont take housing out of the hands of NIMBY councils.

Similarly, electricity prices in particular are a concern, but Labour’s answer is to create a state-owned retailer, rather than address the real issue which is the lack of generation built in the past twenty years. This follows a single-minded obsession with lowering emissions to atone for the industrial revolution, whilst (similar to housing) the UK makes it impossible to build substantial new power stations, such as nuclear (notwithstanding the corporatist hand-out from taxpayers to the French state owned power company EDF and Chinese state owned power company CGN to build the massively overpriced Hinkley Point C nuclear plant).  Gordon Brown, then David Cameron continued to wage war on emissions without being honest about the impact it would have on consumers’ energy bills, and Keir Starmer is placating his far-left wing by claiming it’s all just capitalism ripping people off (so a bit of state socialism would fix it).

Many Brits are concerned about illegal migration, with the large numbers of small boats, mostly young men who pay people smugglers to take them from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, seeking employment, housing and to access the generosity of the welfare state.  Few are genuine refugees, and besides they are travelling by boat from safe countries such as France and Belgium, precisely because they see fewer opportunities for employment and see the UK as more generous than the largely contributory based welfare states on the continent. While a few Brits are racist and opposed to immigration per se, most are simply concerned about people entering en masse with relatively little control over the numbers or what happens to them (as those caught are detained at taxpayer expense for months whilst they are processed).  The Rwanda solution (flying those deemed not refugees to Rwanda) has proven unworkable, as the UK Government seeks to avoid breaking international law around the treatment of refugees. The fundamental problem is that the law did not anticipate a whole industry of economic migrants seeking to enter welfare states.  

The Conservatives could either have spent a fortune on border protection, to turn back boats, detain economic migrants and process them, or converted the UK’s welfare state, including health, education and housing into a contributory system like much of the continent. However, neither were done nor will be done. The UK will continue to attract tens of thousands of young undocumented economic migrants eager to work on low wages at best, or engage in organised crime at worst.  

However, most of all the UK will do nothing to address its productivity sclerosis.  Whether it be energy, or airport runways, or roads (virtually all local authorities are averse to reducing traffic congestion), or regulations on land use, or taxation, or reducing barriers to competition, there is no real interest in the major political parties in doing anything about this (except for a rump in the Conservatives). No one will deal with the PONZI scheme of the state pension, no one will make the welfare and education system more supportive of incentivising training and work, rather than dependency and low value “degrees” from “universities” that are little more than glorified former polytechs. In the meantime, the Starmer Government wont confront at all the seething anti-semitism and Islamism that has been seen most clearly in the protests supporting Hamas in Gaza, but also has been bubbling for many years seen in pockets of terrorism from time to time.  Critical constructivism has no time for installing a sense of being “British” as something to bring people together, even though the outgoing Conservatives have exemplified a country that embraces migrants and women as leaders, noting that the next likely leader of the Conservatives is Kemi Badenoch, a woman of Nigerian ancestry who completely reject critical constructivism and socialism. That is how far the UK has come. 

It's fundamentally tragic, and of course the First Past the Post system magnifies victories and losses when they are so overwhelming. The only hope I have for the UK is that the Conservatives are the party of Opposition, and not superseded by the Illiberal Demagogues in sheer numbers. For all of that, the people who should hold their heads in shame for the loss of the Conservatives are Cameron, May, Johnson, Truss, Sunak and their many colleagues who thought that being in government was about managing the status quo, and fiddling, rather than using mandates to transform the country.  

I’m glad I’m out, but I'm sad that so much has been squandered by people who didn't deserve power.


Anonymous said...

It is remarkable how similar the Tories and National Party are. Apart from reversing the last minute nuttiness of the Hipkins govt (FPAs, N&BE Act), Luxon has essentially continued the Ardern govt. Luxon has the same managerialist approach to Govt as Cameron (with less hair and comms ability).

Tom Hunter said...

Ive been making the point over at Kiwiblog and on my own blog at No Minister, that we'll likely be saying the same things about our National-led government come 2029 or 2032, since they exhibit most of the same attitudes as the British Conservative Party, especially your comment that they...

... thought that being in government was about managing the status quo, and fiddling, rather than using mandates to transform the country.

Libertyscott said...

There are some signs this government isn't Key Mk2, which had exactly those issues, but only because some in the Nats are interested in doing much more, and both ACT and NZF have some people who are pulling them along (which didn't happen when ACT was a one-man band and TPM was happy with the status quo plus some spending for what they wanted).