Eamonn Butler

The message Tory leadership candidates need to hear

The message Tory leadership candidates need to hear
Text settings

I’ve been the victim of a robbery. In broad daylight. As an average Brit, more than 40 per cent of everything I produce is taken by the government for whatever they want to spend it on.

In theory they ask my opinion on what that should be. But they ask me only every five years, and even then, the chance of my vote making a difference is literally millions to one. That’s why many – or most of us – don’t bother to vote at all and most of the rest simply give the major parties a big two fingers.

Even mediaeval serfs only had to work a third of their time for their masters. We work two-fifths for ours. That’s the equivalent of labouring non-stop, from 1st January to today, 30th May, solely for the government. Only today—Tax Freedom Day—do we start earning for ourselves.

And what do the pounds pinched buy? A gleaming, efficient government machine that protects us, helps us prosper, and protects our rights and liberties?

No: a rambling leviathan that wastes money on HS2, six-figure Town Hall salaries, junk ‘academic’ research, and daily pantomimes in Parliament. No wonder people are angry.

Have the Tory candidates got that message? Well some might just have. Dominic Raab wants to cut Income Tax and Jeremy Hunt wants to slash Corporation Tax. Boris Johnson, James Cleverly, Esther McVey, Sajid Javid and Steve Baker are tax cutters at heart – though how firm would they be, in government, at resisting the constant pressures to spend more and more?

Better than Rory Stuart and Matt Hancock, for sure. And maybe better than Michael Gove, Mark Harper, and Kit Malthouse. The beauty parade has started but so far it’s not a line-up that seems much inspired to set people free.

We’ve all had enough of managerialist politicians, devoid of principle and melting under the daily demands of every vested interest group—abetted by a media that thinks politics is the most important thing on Earth.

This aloof, rarified political class bully us mercilessly, imposing on us their own opinion of what we should think, do—even what we eat and drink. They have organised our economy and our politics for their benefit, not ours.

That’s why today I’m publishing The Streetwise Guide To The British Economy. Big government is a dangerous neighbourhood: you need some nous to navigate through the world it has created. Democracy won’t help you. It is no longer limited to the few decisions we have to make collectively: now everything is up for grabs by the majority. Just ask Jeremy Corbyn, who seems to think that private wealth exists solely to be shared out among his own supporters.

But you don’t make a country rich by breaking up its complex capital machinery and hoping that bureaucrats will find a better way of arranging the cogs. Nor by denigrating success and taxing money honestly made through the voluntary purchases of happy customers.

And you don’t make the poor better off with planning controls that make homes unaffordable, a state school monopoly, or trade and agriculture policies that push up the price of food.

People yearn for politicians with principles. But we need more than that. Reforms like term limits to stop politicians becoming an alien class. Halving the number of MPs and peers. Cutting taxes, simplifying laws, scrapping regulations and abolishing quangos. Making ministries justify their whole budget every year. A slimmer, more focused government: not one you have to be streetwise merely to survive.

Eamonn Butler is Director of the Adam Smith Institute. His book The Streetwise Guide To The British Economy is out now