Monday 18 September 2017

Boris's bid for Brexit (or the Tory Leaadership)

I don't buy the Telegraph so have not actually read Boris Johnson's 4 000 word article on the joys to come if the UK  leaves the EU.

Most commentators seem to regard the article as either encouraging gung-ho optimism to cheer the  troops, or gung-ho nonsense, high on enthusiasm and light on facts.

Two phrases which to me stand out, and I assume they are in the original, are that the post-Brexit UK that Johnson envisages will be "low tax" and "low regulation."

I find it frankly amazing, and deeply distressing, that any serious politician can offer these as a future for Britain so recently after the Grenfell fire, which has so tragically illustrated the dangers of both.

Of course, we must wait until the official enquiry issues its findings to gain a reasoned account of all  the failings that led to the disaster.  But it would be naive indeed to suppose that both penny-pinching to keep taxes low and insufficient, or inadequately enforced, regulation, did not play some part.

Grenfell is, sadly, only one, though most recent and most serious,  of the many  consequences  of  the misguided neo-liberal  agenda and its emphasis on deregulation and low taxation which has done so much to lower the quality of our environment and reduce our protection as workers and citizens

I have no idea whether the former Grenfell residents voted  to Leave or Remain, or whether many of them were even allowed, or even registered, to vote, but it is the poorest and weakest in our community who are most reliant on public expenditure financed by taxes to to provided decent public services, including social housing, and adequate and strictly enforced regulations to protect  their welfare and safety as workers and citizens.


  1. I have heard many politicians saying the word Liberal to justify their comments etc It has been used for good and bad purposes. The word that galls me is neo-liberal where the damage this 'philosophy'has caused reflects badly on the party. To me it is now an archaic philosphy which was right for its time but is no longer relevant. As our party is identified in the word we should ditch the idea as it gives the party a bad name.

    1. Agreed. I too find “neo-liberal” an irritation , and to some extent an embarrassment, as it seems to align us with the wrong side of history. At one stage, in this blog and elsewhere, I tried to substitute “neo-con” but it was pointed out that this term really relates to US politics. See

      It is true that 19th Century Liberals were very keen on deregulation, particularly in terms of international trade – we were “free traders” – believing in the removal of barriers such as customs duties and other obstacles to international trade.

      However, it was always recognised that there is an important role for the government in limiting abuse, especially by monopolies. The Conservative neo-liberals have adopted Adam Smith (he of the “unseen had of the market” ) as their guiding light, conveniently forgetting that, a) he was writing at time of small businesses, each incapable of over-influencing the market, and b) he was well aware of the tendency of small businesses to group and in this way exercise monopoly power. There’s a lovely paragraph in the Wealth of Nations:

      “People of the same trade seldom met together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”
      p116, Everyman’s Library Edition.

      Then, of course, the 20th century Liberals added to our creed social liberalism and introduced the foundations of the welfare state (the People’s Budget, Old Age Pensions etc.), the Liberal William Beveridge built on this to form the template for the modern welfare state as implemented by the post-war Labour government, and another Liberal John Maynard Keynes, introduced the economic mechanisms by which a government with the will could influence the level of macro-economic activity for the benefit of everyone.

      The post –war consensus fell into disfavour in the mid-1970s and Mrs Thatcher, with her neo-con bible by Hayek and the “intellectual” support of the US Chicago School led by Milton Freedman introduced the policies of “market rules OK” and “devil take the hindmost.”

      Sadly distrust of the Beveridge/Keynesian consensus infected even the Liberal Democrat Party, the Orange Book was published in 2004 and when we did finally gain a smidgeon of power some of the leading Orange Bookers, notably Danny Alexander and David Laws, were in prominent positions in the party, end encouraged it, blindly it seems to me, to betray our heritage. It has to be recognised that these leading lights were, in other areas of policy, rock solid Liberals, promoting liberty, human rights, internationalism and enthusiasm for the European Union, to name but some.

      Since the 2007/8 economic crash the overwhelming majority of macro-economists now recognise neo-liberalism for the disaster it was, though we still have the leading Brexiteers as misguided believers.

      I’m afraid we’re stuck with the neo-liberal description of the “austerity” policy, but am relieved that Vince Cable, who was one of the first in the coalition to recognise its limits, is now leading the party.

      With luck the public’s short memory will allow us to put our apostasy behind us and recognise we’re now back on track as social Liberals.