Alex Massie

Barnett’s Beastly Treatment of Barnet

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Tim Montgomerie's response to Danny Finkelstein's column is, as was expected, interesting and challenging. For now, however, let's focus on just one line:

Mainstream Conservatism is also more pro-poor because it's the poorest Britons who suffer most from crime, uncontrolled immigration and the unfair deal that London's lowest income boroughs get from the Barnet [sic] formula.

Emphasis added. One hears this sort of thing quite frequently. Which is fine. But three points: first, over time Barnett is designed to actually reduce differences in spending allocations. It may do so more slowly than some would like but that's a different argument. Secondly, identifiable government spending in London is almost as high, per capita, as it is in Scotland (roughly 115% of the UK average) and this, self-evidently, does not include vast amounts of unidentified spending, a good deal of which is London-based. Thirdly, and most importantly, the answer to Tim's complaint lies in letting local government raise a much greater percentage of its revenue itself.

Finally, Tim has written a lot about "Mainstream Conservatism" recently. Unless I'm mistaken, he's not mentioned Unionism once. I concede that this may not seem an urgent matter and accept that it's not something that is at the top of many people's voting concerns but where does Unionism fit into Mainstream Conservatism? And if it doesn't what's so mainstream about Mainstream Conservatism?

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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