I thought I would start my first political post (but in no way my last) reflecting on a conviction politician and contrasting to one of today’s leader’s from the same party, supposedly sharing similar ideologies. Having spent a lot of my time immersing myself in the political discussion currently taking hold of the UK at present in the wake of Brexit and turmoil in broader Europe, it is now, more than ever, strong and effective leadership is what is needed.
In a Westminster parliamentary system, the current Prime Minister should be a reflection of the Conservative Party values and views. They are merely the party appointed leader of the majority party in parliament. Each member represents their constituency and form parties based on belief with one strong leader being the voice for all members.
Why I raise such rudimentary analysis of the system of parliament in this country is the current drift of the political parties to what some political analysts would suggest is the “centre” and the need to capture this illusory part of society to win government. The worst outcome of our politicians, and this is globally, is how we have lost politicians who are willing to lose their job or have a significant group of electors disagree with their policies in the short term because they have the vision to know that the entire populace will benefit over the medium to long term.
It is interesting at this point in time that Port Talbot steel mill comes into focus, as does the UK steel industry, much like the British coal industry in the 1980s. Heavy industry employs a significant amount of people, this much is known. What is also known is the significant dislocation and social issues that arise from an industry closing down that has a significant workforce. To enact such change requires bold political skill and an understanding that this policy will be highly emotive and likely to cause a sharp rise in negative sentiment. However, governments throwing money at an industry that is structurally unsustainable in a certain jurisdiction leads to a far worse economic and, ultimately, social outcome. The UK does not have the competitive advantage to make steel so why throw so much money at it?
In Australia we watched successive governments hand out hundreds of millions of dollars to support an ailing car industry which has thankfully now been allowed to contract substantially and will disappear in coming years. The size of Australia’s population and openness to free trade where countries with superior manufacturing skills provide superior products is why the industry was structurally incapable of succeeding and the fiscal drain to the sector has been stemmed.
In much the same way, the UK coal industry faced similar challenges – high cost, low quality coal was being produced by the end of the 70s before Thatcher stepped in and intervened in an unsustainable industry. Sure the social costs of such intervention can never be underestimated, but, ultimately these jobs were to be lost at any rate and many other jobs would have been lost due to government waste and unnecessary expenditure. This is a real economic loss that was avoided for the betterment of the rest of the UK. It is telling that the amount of fiscal support governments offer up could be better spent on social programmes to relocate, retrain and allow for the successful re-entry of these workers into more productive parts of society. This would be my hope for Port Talbot. I am yet to see it happen in any economy.
Unfortunately I cannot see Theresa May supporting a policy that is so in keeping with Tories ideologue because the short term popularity is so much more important. Backbenchers who are more worried about re-election than the success of the country drive this from the bottom up. The Prime Minister’s track record to date on free market economics is staggering to say the least.
Watching a Conservative Prime Minister openly pushing for a hard Brexit and an exit from their largest trading partner, in Europe, completely misses the point of why people voted for Brexit. The man on the street will stand up in 2 years time and wonder why everything now costs 20% more, completely forgetting the immigration issue once it is seemingly solved. The conversation in this country cannot admit that the sole reason for wanting to leave the EU is about unwanted immigration and almost nothing to do with free trade. The people worried about immigration (and I am generalising here) have no concern on free trade and in fact, will be upset when routes to market for their goods and services dry up or their jobs vanish.
It doesn’t end there which is why I can see the British taxpayer about to spend billions on supporting a dying industry for a significant economic drag in the long term. And it won’t just be taxpayer money spent on bailing out ailing industries, but tax revenue lost because businesses turn off the extreme left policies currently being proposed.
How on earth does Theresa May think naming and shaming companies with foreign workers is sensible policy? Service industries employ significant overseas workers due to a skills shortage here. This South Park view that “they took our jobs” is ludicrous, as is a Tory PM supporting it. Add to that, the thought bubble about having an employee representative appointed to all company Boards in the UK as well as ways to limit executive pay all go to big government and are anti-business. Why add more red tape and another reason not to domicile in the UK? The Board and executive pay are a matter of concern for shareholders not government.
The UK should be encouraging the re-domiciling of corporations back home. If this happens, the jobs it generates and the government revenue from taxation will offset the fringe who lose out. I mean the biggest employers of foreign labour will be the large investment banks. We are already seeing them look to retract their operations in the UK over Brexit. This, at a time, when they have produced record government corporate tax receipts and this doesn’t even consider the income tax paid by their employees. These are going to be lost in the future.
It continues to shock me even as I type this that there is currently a Tory PM who is undoing the successful work of another. Some of the policy decisions are straight out of the playbook of Jeremy Corbyn, the unelectable and unpopular leader of the Labour Party. The UK will be worse off.
Let us reflect on the successful transformation of the UK to a service economy from manufacturing and how much the lives of the citizens have improved as a result. Surely the UK doesn’t want to regress? Tell you what, don’t take my word for it, head to Beijing during the spring months and see why economies transition away from heavy industry and you can see why so many Chinese look in admiration at the west and our development.
Theresa May, stay true to your roots and core constituency. You will be handsomely rewarded in the long run. Chasing the “centre” is never achievable.