January 10, 2017

Fluff won’t deliver the PM’s legacy

Fluff won’t deliver the PM’s legacy

To create a broader domestic legacy, the Prime Minister must avoid straying into gentle, unobjectionable waffle about social justice, says William Walter.

Last week was the Prime Minister’s toughest since taking office. Tuesday saw the resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers, Britain’s ambassador to the EU, and with it his scathing assessment of the Government’s Brexit strategy (or apparent lack of it). Then, on Friday, The Economist landed a second blow with its editorial and front-page headline: ‘Theresa Maybe: Britain’s indecisive premier’, in which she was criticised for her indecision, lack of strategy, and poor leadership.

Desperate to regain the initiative, Downing Street swung into action. The Sunday Telegraph carried an opinion editorial in which the Prime Minister set out her vision for social reform, which was fleshed out further in yesterday’s papers. Branded the ‘Shared Society’ (sound familiar?), she promises to address many of the injustices working class people experience daily. Core challenges singled out are the low life expectancy for those born into poverty, the tougher treatment black people experience in the criminal justice system, the number of white-working class boys left behind in our education system, and lastly the social stigma and lack of funding for mental illness in the UK. But more broadly she pledges to move beyond the narrow focus of social justice and instead embark on a fundamental programme of social reform, addressing social mobility, inequality, cost of living and the country’s housing crisis.

Though well meaning, the programme is not without its challenges. First, while it is clear on its objectives, it is less clear on how to achieve them (a characteristic it inherits from its now defunct predecessor the ‘Big Society’). And like its predecessor, it seems to suffer from the same contradiction: the use of the heavy hand of government to embark on a programme of state-sponsored social reengineering to reduce over dependence on the state. One big hand to fight the same big hand. Better, surely, to first roll back the state, so that communities, private and third sector organisations can be given the opportunity step up to the plate?

Another problem is the perceived difficulties the Government has pledged to address. For all the talk among politicians and social commentators of spiralling levels of income inequality, the data doesn’t stack up. ONS figures show income inequality is lower now than it was back in 1990. What has changed since 1990 though are the public’s perceived levels of income inequality. Stirred up by fallacious rumour and scare tactics from left-wing journalists and politicians (Jeremy Corbyn on the Today Programme this morning is a classic example) the public has bought into a narrative that they are evermore worse off, ignorant to the reality that over the last ten years income inequality has been in gradual decline and is now at a level not seen since the mid 1980s.  When the Prime Minister talks of developing a country that works for everyone, and pledges to tackle the problem of inequality, all this serves to do is reinforce the public’s false perception and create a rod for her own back. While it may allay misplaced fears in the short-term, it is not a long-term remedy.

Third, many of the challenges on the Prime Minister’s agenda, such as tackling the country’s housing crisis, require the passing of contentious legislation through the House. With a working government majority of 14, and Brexit likely to put her at odds with many of her own MPs as well as those of the opposition, the Prime Minister is set to take on profound political challenges with limited political capital. How she uses that political capital is key. In making that decision she should remember that politicians never achieve greatness solely for their wise observations, soaring oratory or attempts to influence broad trends; it is their concrete achievements (or errors) that marks them for eternity. Obama is a strong orator but he will likely be remembered, for better or worse, for introducing a (perhaps very short-lived…) universal insurance system, for his foreign policy failures, for his patchy stewardship of the financial crisis and not for his “Yes we can” enthusiasm and ability to excite huge enthusiasm and optimism, impressive though those features of his performance may be. Blair was also a confident presenter but, although his presidential style and use of spin doctors will merit a footnote in the history books, the chapters will read of his fundamental reform of the Labour party, his blending of heavy taxation with private sector partnership and of course his involvement in the Iraq war.

Theresa May is no Cicero, but that is no handicap to leaving a profound legacy. Brexit will, perforce, be the largest part of her chapter. But to create a broader domestic legacy she must avoid straying into gentle, unobjectionable waffle about social justice and display a pin-sharp focus on the nuts and bolts of achieving reforms of realistic scope.  Her form in this area gives some cause for optimism. During her six years as Home Secretary she quickly earned a reputation for competency and no-nonsense leadership. But she also delivered results: under her watch crime fell to its lowest level since records began; she over saw the devolution of policing powers to local communities; reformed draconian stop and search measures; and helped coordinate security services to better defend against terrorism and the threat of radicalisation. One obvious challenge she could tackle is housing. The country is facing an acute housing shortage especially in the south-east. To solve the problem requires a relatively obvious fix: radical reform of country’s planning system. It also requires taking on huge vested interest groups, including countless NIMBY home owners and their MPs. But were she able to deliver on her housing pledge, she could be rest assured that she has left a legacy worth remembering.

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William Walter
William Walter is the Founder and Editor of Comment Central. He began his career in Parliament working for three Conservative MPs — the then Shadow Minister for Universities & Skills, Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Opposition Treasury whip, James Duddridge MP, and former Shadow Pensions Minister, Nigel Waterson MP. In addition to his Parliamentary work he has also written for a range of publications, including: The Daily Telegraph, City AM, Metro and Conservative Home.
  • Shadow Warrior

    Hammond is continuity Brown. He is a hand-wringing lefty looking for clever wheezes to raise more tax in ways that people don’t immediately notice.

  • captainslugwash

    I predict the Budget will attempt to show the Left how caring the Tories are, and it will be funded by screwing over the working man.
    If Corp Tax comes down, I bet Divi tax will be going up.
    I would love to be wrong.

  • skynine

    We really need to look at tax credits, in particular in work tax credits that encourage people to work part time to preserve the benefits. 45% of women work part time and I would hazard a guess that tax credits are the main cause. This leads to low pay, low skill work in supermarkets and the retail sector including coffee shops. The government needs to get back to the employer paying people to do a job for economic reasons rather than to get onto the tax credit ladder. Like all government benefits it distorts the market and diverts government expenditure into non productive areas.
    The refrain that the government has cut expenditure is not true, it increases every year as more and more goes into welfare.

  • MrVeryAngry

    fat chance

  • MrSauce

    So, when wouldn’t we want a ‘budget for growth’?

  • Rob

    I note that the UK Government has just slapped on a 25% tax charge for anyone moving abroad and wishing to move out their private pension from the UK.

  • SonofBoudica

    The Remoaners will do their utmost to sabotage the Government’s negotiating position. They do not want a successful outcome; they want a failure. They want to be able to scream “Told you so!” from the rooftops.

  • EnglandLaments

    Thank goodness for Andrew Neil, the one media hack who scares the pants off the established politicians. He was spot on with Heidi Allen!

  • joshuafalken

    I had a very long, hard, studied and considered look at the hope, care and aspirations of all Europeans, before I voted to get the UK out of the toxic grasp of Brussels.

    The European Union and it’s charge of “ever closer union” has borrowed and spent its way to oblivion, whilst enslaving the working and middle classes in debt.

    The central control mantra of the unaccountable Brussels ruling elite, delivered through a mixture of socialism, globalism and corporatism is entirely responsible for the populist revolt by the millions of “Just About Managings” across Europe.

    We must remember the ultimate goal of socialists, globalists and corporatists is control, not prosperity. see https://mises.org/blog/goal-socialists-socialism-—-not-prosperity.

    Social equality and economic growth always fail under central control and fighting against the Brussels doctrine on behalf of all Europeans is why I voted for Brexit.

    Britain has a long history of helping Europeans depose tyrants and Brussels is just the latest incarnation.

    Britain is the most racially advanced and accepting society on the planet. We welcome those in need and those that can help us with open arms and a smile; that will not change.

    We are also one of the most innovative, talented and open societies in the world, which why everyone wants to live here. However, we cannot fit everyone in, so we have to have clear, balanced and fair immigration policy which is where the arguments start between the monetarists and humanists will never be reconciled.

    I thought long and hard before coming to the conclusion that leaving the EU was in the best interest of all Europeans, as Brussels is toxic and cannot be reformed from within.

    Also, I find it insulting that people who voted Remain have insufficient faith in British ingenuity, compassion and skill to get a good deal for us and see the Europe that we love get a better deal from Brussels and the reform that European people deserve. https://mishtalk.com/2017/03/29/bad-brexit-deal-better-than-no-deal-mathematical-idiocy-odds-of-no-deal/ and https://www.worldheadlines.info/2017/03/after-brexit-9-reasons-to-be-bullish-on-great-britain/

    The politics of left verses right are dead because neither have delivered the promised economic growth and social mobility for anyone, but themselves. The populists are not selfish per-se, they just want to take back control of their own destiny that left/right politicians have freely given away and/or exploited for their own ends. In my constituency, the local residents group are taking over the councils as politicians ignore voters, so Westminster should beware of the well-organised, local resident independents at the next election. This is a peoples revolution which should be shouted from the rooftops, but liberals remained deafened by the socialist, globalist and corporatist “vested interests” that have spectacularly failed us and are obediently crying foul and fake.

    There will be an initial unpalatable inflationary cost to fighting globalism and rolling back central control that few appear to have factored in, but dismantling failed left/right vested interests should eventually free libertarian socially-conservative capitalism from the shackles of TBTF corporatism to feed economic growth and social mobility.

  • agdpa

    The EU usually makes the wrong decision – on immigration, on freedom of movement, on the euro, on the Ukraine, etc. etc. Little hope it will get Brexit right.

  • brownowl

    Eh? Reference please!

  • Neil2

    Sod caring. Screw the spongers and breeders. Kill HS2. Stop all “green” subsidies. Slash “foreign aid” and walk away from the EUSSR with immediate effect.

  • Rob
  • John C

    What a confused article. It conflates surveillance by the security services with poor defences against fraud.

  • John C

    Err, it’s the UK that’s leaving the EU, not vice versa.

  • John C

    Me, now. ‘Growth’ is a manic obsession.

  • La Face Nord

    Mr Redwood – are you aware of the Biased BBC website? It’s been exposing their agenda for a long time, but I imagine you’ve been well aware of the BBC’s agenda for quite some time…

  • Contact Rvtech

    The post is great

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