Tacking Left on Economics, Right on Culture

I thought I’d chance my arm at setting out some semi-serious thoughts on what “leaning left on economics and right on culture” might actually mean in practice for a UK government in 2021. We are told this is the electoral sweet spot, but I don’t think the current Government’s heart is in it at all and it certainly doesn’t have the talent to achieve much. As for the opposition, well…

I started out with a thread then decided it properly belonged in a (quickly put together) blog post. The train of thought was prompted by this tweet:

The last reforming government was Blair’s in 1997 (with I think generally poor results that have been largely responsible for the need for the next one). Much more was done by the Labour governments of 1945 and 1966 and then the Thatcher governments from 1979 but our politicians have fallen out of the habit of change and seem to be beholden to opinion columnists, the civil service, lawyers, journalists, think tanks and NGOs. In the end these people really do not matter as much as our politicians think they do.

Some of these suggestions I think are good, others I don’t think are the best ways to approach issues but they do command the support of many people. Some are more detailed than others whilst some are statements of values and future direction. Most if not all could have been adopted by many Tory and Labour politicians within living memory, but perhaps not most of the current House of Commons.

Any of these can have stones thrown at them, the details aren’t there (purposefully) and of course any amount of whatabouttery and itjustcantbedoneism can be brought to bear. A couple of suggestions are slightly tongue in cheek and a few cultural gates have been crashed. There is no single person in the country who could agree to them all, but the point is to sketch out what a government that tacks left on economics and right on culture might actually set about.

I think the most important thing is that we don’t have any politicians in this country at the moment who have the vision, status, skill or leadership ability to pick up an agenda like the below, win power on it and face down opposition over the time period necessary for implementation. But hope springs eternal, perhaps there is a group of people working on just such a thing right now, and they may even succeed. Anyway, here goes!

Taxation

  1. Abolish NI, rename income tax “National Insurance”
  2. Top rate tax of 50% on taxable earnings over £100k, abolish Entrepreneurs’ Relief
  3. 65% tax on all rental income derived from domestic properties, Housing Benefit to be frozen at current (nominal) levels
  4. Introduction of a married person’s allowance of £5,000 per year (available to either spouse on basis of nomination). See “values” below
  5. Supertax of 85% on any journalist earning over £150k
  6. Defined Benefit pensions in the public sector to be immediately ceased and replaced with Defined Contribution schemes. This is to be described as “levelling”

National infrastructure

  1. Nuclear power will form a central part in national energy policy. Hinckley will be built out but future requirements will be met from new, smaller fission reactors. Funding to be focussed on fusion power. For remainder of renewable energy we will pivot away from wind to tidal. Restrictions on fracking to be removed, decisions on whether to allow fracking to be left to local councils. The government will make clear that the alternative to nuclear power is power cuts, huge tax rises or more likely both.
  2. Local authorities to be funded and required to build huge amounts of housing, initially biased towards affordable rent with an option to buy after some time. Greenbelt to be abolished.
  3. HS2 to be built out completely and extended to Scotland (should they vote to stay in the UK, see below)
  4. Expenditure in the NHS to be significantly increased and the care system to be rolled into the NHS. Training of large numbers of doctors, nurses and carers, many more than at present, is a national priority. The UK is a rich country and the government will be judged on its ability to improve health outcomes here and not rely on immigration from poorer countries for medical staff.

Values

  1. Clear statement that growth of the welfare state is a sign of economic and social failure and that the best protector of economic rights and welfare is a vibrant economy that produces good, sustainable jobs
  2. Government to unambiguously promote marriage and families with married parents as the best unit of societal organisation
  3. Government to open talks with the TUC over what the bloody hell went wrong with unions, tell them they are actually quite important and there is an opportunity for them if they pull their socks up and get real
  4. Clear, unequivocal government policy that identity politics are a really crummy idea and presumption that government and government funded bodies and services should not partake at all. That means all of it.

Governance

  1. There will be one UK national government with responsibility for defence, international relations, national taxation and borders.
  2. Massive devolution of powers away from central government to local councils and cities (see Scotland below): this will be done on the back of the house building programme
  3. 75% of top decile earning civil service jobs, plus immediate reports, to be moved to locations at least 100 miles from London (and no, not to central Manchester, Leeds, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Bristol or Birmingham)
  4. Cities and councils to be given the power to raise more tax and borrow money (but with no guarantee from the UK government or the Bank of England).
  5. Once and for all Scottish independence referendum to be held by the end of 2022. UK Govt to set out red lines on financial settlement, currency, pensions and border (should independent Scotland attain EU membership). UK government position will be that if Scotland chooses to remain in the UK then the Westminster Parliament will abolish the Scottish government. It’s put up or shut up, the Scottish Neverendum will cease one way or another.

Immigration

  1. Immigration to be encouraged from a limited number of countries in the Commonwealth (this will be a permanent policy). Immigration on a more ad hoc basis will be encouraged in certain high skill categories where the need arises. All immigration will be on the expectation of integration and all immigrants becoming full UK citizens within two years under the slogan “the UK is our country and our home and not just our current workplace”. All other categories of residence to be abolished, holders of these will automaticaly become full UK citizens. Adoption of western values regarding e.g. women’s and lesbian and gay rights and respect for free expression are not negotiable.
  2. UK to unilaterally suspend treaty obligations related to asylum seekers and simultaneously to target deportation of 10,000 illegal immigrants per month, this target to be reviewed regularly. For the avoidance of doubt, people will actually be deported, if necessary to a Crown territory in the middle of nowhere where basic provisions will be supplied but that’s it. See Australian policy some years ago. If other laws need to be repealed to move this along then the government will not shirk from doing so.

International

  1. We will seek a good relationship with our International neighbours and the EU and cooperate on areas of common concern.
  2. Globalisation has caused massive increases in economic activity but too often at the cost of what really matters to many millions of people. For the next few years the job of government is to address this. Business and trade are important, but sometimes they must take a back seat to more national concerns.
  3. We recognise the UK’s former role through its Empire and we will seek to promote and  build on relations with the Commonwealth.
  4. As an economically developed, populous English speaking country the UK has massive amounts in common with the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We will seek to work closely with all of these, seeking to expand five eyes cooperation and work together as independent countries on international bodies.

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