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Labour could lose the next general election because …

In this posting I want to pull together all the reasons for thinking that the “New Labour” project may now be unravelling, and unravelling so seriously that there is a real possibility that they might even lose the next general election. There is no one cause of this phenomenon, just lots of things coming together.

My first because deals head-on with the – I presume – widespread American belief that … well, how could we not love Tony Blair? But there are many other becauses now assembling themselves, and the list that follows is surely not exhaustive:

Because being popular in the USA doesn’t necessarily make you popular in your own country. Like Thatcher and Gorbachev before him, Tony Blair is now revered by many Americans, but this doesn’t make him any more liked here. If anything, probably rather less so. Being thought of as a Prime Minister who is more concerned to play the world statesman than to grapple with the actual problems on your own desk is not a plus. Prime Minister Callaghan never recovered from the public perception (“Crisis? What crisis?”) of him as a man who didn’t care about his own country’s problems because they were too boring and too intractable. Blair is flirting with the same stuff now.

Because now fewer and fewer people are Labour or are Conservative, they merely vote Labour or Conservative. Party membership of all parties is now tiny. When there’s a shift of voter mood, such shifts can be bigger than they used to be, because more people are willing to switch. Even majorities like the current Labour one can vanish, as quickly as they arrived. Because, whereas the Conservatives used to be split on EUrope, now Labour is split on America. Conservatives used to be divided between those who thought EUrope was okay and those who hate it. Now Labour is divided between those who think the USA is okay, and those who hate it. The Iraq War has split Labour horribly, and the bigger war (USA v. Islamofascist terrorism) is still going and won’t end soon. Ergo Labour will stay split horribly.

Because a few months back, the government decided that the Conservatives are totally useless – a not unreasonable idea. That made them think they could raise the rate of taxation and get their hands on more tax money without suffering politically. They forgot about reality. Reality is now leading the fight-back against New Labour, with the Conservatives padding along behind. Reality says that raising the rate of taxation doesn’t actually give the government any more money. All those spending plans of a few months ago are back on hold.

Because, now that the government has showed willing on the increased public spending front, the unions are getting frisky. The plan used to be: Go no crazier financially than the previous Conservative government. Now the plan is: what? Anyone’s guess. Lots of chances to disagree. Wars start when protagonists can disagree about their relative strengths. The same happens in industrial disputes. A Junior Minister may say: that’s it, that’s all there is, to a union, but then a Senior Minister may decide there’s more and meanwhile the union knows it. There are now strike threats growling around like approaching thunder. There’s a late 1970s feel in the air. This is not big yet, but it could become big. The unions obviously feel that having waited all this time, they’re entitled to their pay day.

Because, by putting tax increases on the agenda, the government has recreated the world of the past in another way. While tax cuts were a serious idea and tax increases weren’t, the Conservatives were split about tax cuts, and Labour were united against them. Now Labour is divided about tax increases, and the Conservatives are united against them.

Because, although Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith is pretty awful, he’s not that awful and is far better than his predecessor William Hague. Both of them have the charisma of slugs, and IDS if anything has less charisma than Hague, but his decisions are better. Hague only made one big decision, and it was a howler. It was that the most important thing he needed to do was to “connect” with the British people. Policy didn’t matter. The people just had to like him. He had more gag writers working for him than he had policy analysts. Grotesque. Conservative front benchers are now acting humble (this much they have learned from Blair), but are now talking much smarter, the right combination – unlike in the Hague era when they did U-turns on policy, but carried on braying on TV like arrogant wankers.

Because the government is now blaming the media, and in particular the BBC. Samizdata can rail against the BBC. It’s our job. Biased BBC must do this. That’s what it’s for. Instapundit can do it. Who cares? British governments do this at their peril.

Because the New Labourites know all of the above, and are starting to panic, and to desert the sinking ship to spend more time with their little rats. And if they aren’t panicking, people are starting to say that they are which amounts to the same thing. In politics, perception is all.

Because in the light of all of the above, the New Labour Thing is now visibly winding down, and its death is now only a matter of time. In politics, the future is a current fact. Lose command of that future, and the present slips from your grasp. (Think USSR in the late 1980s.) What can you threaten? What can you offer? In contrast, what can IDS now threaten? (More.) What can he now offer? (More.) We have two feedback loops here, negative and positive. Once a Political Era starts to unravel, and is seen to be unravelling, it unravels all the faster.

Oh, and did I mention the beacuse that New Labour hasn’t the faintest f***ing idea how to “reform the public services”, make the trains run on time, make the children more clever, the criminals less criminal, etcetera etcetera? And that most of the things it does do (“initiatives”) only make matters worse? The public doesn’t quite get all the details of this, but it is starting seriously to smell the rough outlines.

Two final points:

One: it may not happen. None of this is definite. The government could recover. A few good opinion polls could see them get their old momentum back. The Conservatives could, now that they smell power, start braying like hyenas and alienating everyone again. The World Economy could look up and give the government another zillion pounds to spend. The Americans may calm down, and Europe may flair up. Events, dear boy, might stop being nasty to the government and resume being nice to them.

Two: even if everything does go wrong for the Government, that doesn’t mean that anything particularly good will have happened. In many ways, all this is evidence of how things have regressed from: How Well Should We Be Governed? to: How Badly? Labour is back to being publicly divided about whether or not to ruin the country. The Conservatives are back to being publicly united about not doing that. The question of trying to actually improve things (with Conservatives divided for and Labour united against) is now off the agenda. And the fact that the Conservatives aren’t quarrelling about EUrope so much means that we can expect no moves whatsoever towards withdrawal, or even any serious slowing of the absorption, if and when they take over.

In many ways, the best result might be a narrow Labour victory, so that a few more good lessons might have time to sink in, rather than a narrow Conservative victory, during which they are liable to be forgotten. But that’s a different matter. This posting is about what the facts are, or may be. It is not about what they should be.

47 comments to Labour could lose the next general election because …

  • Sandy P.

    –Being thought of as a Prime Minister who is more concerned to play the world statesman than to grapple with the actual problems on your own desk is not a plus.–

    Bush 41 beget Bubba with that reasoning. Not paying attention to the homefront. It’s the economy, stupid! Ironically, if Tony unlocked the chains, Britain’s economy would boom.

  • Andy Duncan

    Hi Brian,

    And the fact that the Conservatives aren’t quarrelling about EUrope so much means that we can expect no moves whatsoever towards withdrawal, or even any serious slowing of the absorption, if and when they take over.

    I wouldn’t be so sure about this. Remember IDS is the Maastricht rebel, which is why he is the leader.

    Also, all the senior Euro-statist defeatist Tories (Heath, Heseltine, Major, Clarke, Patten, et al), are either out to grass, out to lunch, or just plain out.

    I hate to say it, but I think Blair could even be right on this issue (hiss, boo, cries of resign, etc :), that the Tories’ hesitation on the Euro, masks a readiness to leave ‘The Project’ entirely.

    And if we don’t join the Euro (please God, please), we may as well leave. Not joining was never envisaged as being an option. May we get down on our knees and thank the late, the great, Sir Jimmy Goldsmith, for getting that Euro referendum out of that fop, Major. Our not joining could (and I’m hoping here, rather than guessing), bring the whole pack of cards down.

    Our being out, could encourage the Germans to leave the Euro, as they descend into wrong interest rate hell, then all the rats will leave France holding the Euro-baby.

    And we will never go into the Euro, under the Bald Quiet Bloke’s watch. Also, after the twin towers, and the Iraq war, it is quite clear that our safety and security in the world, lies with the Americans, not with the fools in Germany, and France.

    Look out for NAFTA membership, under the Bald Quiet Bloke, and a gradual easing out of the European Project.

    However, if you’re right, and the opposite happens, then there will be all hell let loose in the Tory Party. There are a lot of people like me, in it, at the grassroots level, who are keeping quiet at the moment, and we will take the Tory Party apart at the grassroots level, if any further Euro integration takes place, and possibly, even if we don’t start moving out, and soon, once the Bald Quiet Bloke gets in, and I can drink my Smith Square shampoo, shuffled up a lamppost, or hanging out of a Central Party Office window.

    There is nobody I know, under 50, in the Tory Party, who doesn’t want entirely out of Europe. Admittedly, there’s a lot of old fogies in the way of that, who do think “Europe” is a good idea, but they’re not being replaced from the ground level up. And as they retire to leafy-ville, we, the “Let’s get the hell out” group, will come to dominate, more and more, even more than we do already.

  • Andy,

    I was just warming up for a blood-curdling rant about Tory perfidy but you rather took the wind out of my sails.

  • Andy Duncan

    Hi David,

    I feel like a schizophrenic sometimes, both despising the statism of the Tory Party, and volunteering to call voters up, from the call centre inside their Smith Square HQ =>

    AD: “Hello, this is Andy Duncan, from the Conservative Party…”

    Labour Yob: “Yuzz cun foook off, yur Posh Tw*t…Am ‘avin me tee…(Burp)”

    Ah, what joy! :-)

    Takes me back to my happy days at Morton Comprehensive School.

    Brings tears to my eyes, to know the our state education system, has been such a success :)

    But come and join us, David. The water is … well, it’s lukewarm … but the more of us are in it, the less chance there is of the defeatist rentier Pattens of this world, taking over again, and reverting the Party to Euro-love.

    Rgds,
    AndyD

  • If the British electorate gets a sniff of the idea that voting Tory might actually be a step towards getting out of Europe, the Bastard Party is home and dry. People here don’t want to be in the EU. Those who imagine otherwise are just falling for lefty media propaganda.

    Also, don’t forget: because they’ve been out in the cold for long enough to have served their punishment-time, because Britain is basically Conservative, and always will be, and because supporting the “underdog” is every Brit’s favourite hobby.

    Not to mention because that’s about as deep as most people’s political thinking gets (which is fine by me).

  • I think that not just every Tory under 50 wants out, most of the French and Brussels establishment want us out too and that this is where the real fault line in Blair’s European policy lies – he says the Constitution’s not federal, Giscard then says it is, he says the Euro’s not political cue Prodi says it is, and the European Constitution is drafted to be as unacceptable to Britain as possible.

    So however much Blair tries to take Britain in, I think he’ll be undermined not by the British right but increasingly by the European left, just as he was with Iraq.

    What the Tory party should try to do is educate the electorate with a more publicly palatable exit strategy – NAFTA alone is not enough since the US takes less than 20% of our trade and the policy comes across as just swapping the tyranny of the EU for colonisation by the US. A more sensible policy would be to educate the public on the fact that that not being in a trade bloc is neither that unusual and nor necessarily that bad – Switzerland and Norway aren’t in the EU and are doing fine, Australia and NZ aren’t in any multilateral trade bloc and nor are most of the Asian countries. Unfortunately by banging on about joining Nafta, the EU-Outers, weaken this point by giving the impression that we have to be in some bloc.

    A second front that might also be worth focusing on is the likelihood of a two-tier Europe developing – an inner EU core and an outer EFTA-like bloc. This is quite likely to happen in the near future i.e. when the Constitution is not ratified by a number of the more sceptical countries. It may therefore be a good idea for the Tories to start addressing this question publicly now as it will also help convey the line that out of the EU probably won’t mean out of Europe. Links should be made with parties in other potential rejectionist states to lay the ground-work for this likelihood, again, to emphasis the message.

  • “But come and join us, David. The water is … well, it’s lukewarm … but the more of us are in it, the less chance there is of the defeatist rentier Pattens of this world, taking over again, and reverting the Party to Euro-love.”

    Hmmm…have to take that under advisement, counsellor. A year ago I would have been more willing to join the Ba’ath party but now it may be worth muscling in on the blue-rinses for tactical reasons.

  • Phil Bradley

    Following on from Giles post, there was an article
    in the Economist a couple of weeks back that suggested becoming an ‘associate member’ of the EU – in effect partial withdrawl, would be a vote winner for the Conservatives. It was based on some poll data.

    I’m curious to know what the reaction, if any, has been in the media and elsewhere.

  • Tony H

    Hmmm, “muscling in on the blue rinses”… On each of the rare occasions I’ve mingled with local Tories it’s been difficult to restrain myself from jumping on a table, screaming obscenities at the gathering, and pelting them with the revolting miniature sausage rolls they seem so fond of. Frankly they seem like a bunch of loonies whose ideas are as illiberal & un-libertarian as one could imagine.
    I’m not sure about Alice’s comment re the Brits being inherently conservative – I mean, what about the (?) seven million or so on the public payroll, the army of determined long-term unemployed, and the great mass who seem quite happily wedded to a lifetime of swingeing taxation “to pay for the schools & hospitals”?
    Admission time here: most people seem to regard me as a lunatic when I start mildly mentioning libertarianism – and that’s before I get onto the subject of gun control…
    Nah, I’m just a lone voice (except for my fellow loonies on this list) and it’ll never happen.

  • Andy wrote:
    There is nobody I know, under 50, in the Tory Party, who doesn’t want entirely out of Europe. Admittedly, there’s a lot of old fogies in the way of that, who do think “Europe” is a good idea, but they’re not being replaced from the ground level up. And as they retire to leafy-ville, we, the “Let’s get the hell out” group, will come to dominate, more and more, even more than we do already.

    What a pleasant start to the morning. Does the “get the hell out” group have a name? If not I suggest the “get the hell out” group.

  • But Brian’s piece was about more than Europe – a clear demonstration of the power of this issue to dominate right of centre debate. Electorally, Alice in the country is more in tune with the voting public.

    Looking at Brian’s wide-ranging survey in general, I have one bone of contention. I think, Brian, you are tied to a radical past when government had dragons to slay … galloping inflation, union power, failing nationalised industries etc. The path was challenging and the people were not necessarily strong of spirit. Populism would have meant stasis and political and national failure.

    I cannot see that populism is problematic now. Quite the contrary, the Mandelsonian social legislative programme has pushed group issues in every conceivable way. It has been utterly oppressive to the majority. If they had the whit, the Conservatives could profit from this. Off-hand, can you think of any aspect of New Labour’s social policy with which yer average bloke will agree. Alice is right. The country is essentially conservative. The Tories need to offend a few cossetted folk and please the rest of us.

  • John Thacker

    I expect that the Tories could still screw things up, which isn’t surprising. They could still split themselves over the USA just as much as Labour. If IDS and the Tories decide that the best way to attack Blair is to attack the Iraq war (which would be unsurprising), then they could easily push into attacking the US, which could split their support.

  • Dave O'Neill

    The problem is the Economist piece, from the perspective of Tory party strategy is the numbers were pretty inconclusive. A partial withdrawal could win another 8% of the vote, but the numbers of “don’t really cares” or “don’t know enough” were high enough to make that as high risk for the Tories as “X days to save the pound.”

    At this juncture, I am leaning towards a hung parliament as the most likely outcome. I don’t think the Tories have done enough to overturn 160 odd seats in one election. Nu Labour failed in 1992 which suggests that the Tories will in ’04/’05 or whenever Blair calls it.

    While Europe obviously pushes the hot buttons of many people here, its not that important according the polls with all that many people. It certainly doesn’t concern me compared to other things but I spend a lot of time travelling and working in Europe and, quite selfishly, I don’t want any more complications on travel or commerce than we already have. Frankly, again from a personal business perspective, the UK in Schngen and the Euro would make my life a hell of a lot easier. I just got back from a trip to Southern Demark; we drove up from Hamburg, no border check and I could spend Euro’s in Denmark even though they are not in the Eurozone. Made my life very easy.

    I suspect that the next election will probably be both good and frightenly bad for anti-European Tories. I don’t think the conservatives will do enough to win. I don’t think they can. The options may well be either they form a minority government, or Nu Labour and the Lib-Dems do a deal.

    If that is the case then we’ll see PR, Europe and more… the stuff of Tory strategist nightmares.

  • Dave O'Neill

    I’ve mingled with local Tories it’s been difficult to restrain myself from jumping on a table, screaming obscenities at the gathering, and pelting them with the revolting miniature sausage rolls they seem so fond of. Frankly they seem like a bunch of loonies whose ideas are as illiberal & un-libertarian as one could imagine.

    You’ve been to my mother’s local party meetings then? :-)

    That’s my experience of home counties Tories.

    Lots of “In my Day” and “Hanging’s too good for them” and that sort of thing. The average age is about 64 too. Not to mention the huge number of members who only joined for the snooker table.

  • Dave O'Neill

    On another issue, and sorry to spam.

    NAFTA membership sounds good and I could be swayed by a formal policy of associate membership to both the EU and NAFTA with free movement and right to work in both.

    However, I’m not sure that the US would be ready for a trade partner in NAFTA the size of the UK economy. It could have an enormously distorting effect. It would probably be very good for the UK balance of payments but the while the US is huge, the UK is large enough to be a distortion on the relationships already in NAFTA.

  • G Cooper

    Dave O’Neill writes:

    “Frankly, again from a personal business perspective, the UK in Schngen and the Euro would make my life a hell of a lot easier”

    Sadly, this seems to be about the only argument ever advanced for Britain joining the Euro.

    What a tragic end to over a thousand years of history and for what a petty reason.

  • G Cooper

    Andy Duncan writes:

    “But come and join us, David. The water is … well, it’s lukewarm … but the more of us are in it, the less chance there is of the defeatist rentier Pattens of this world, taking over again, and reverting the Party to Euro-love.”

    With all the same reservations that you and others have expressed, I offered to help my local Conservatives during the last bash. I got to drop a few leaflets but, despite the seat being very winnable, not once did they try to rope me in for more. Neither, for that matter, was my street canvassed.

    At least then, what the Conservatives conspicuously lacked was a real will to win. Perhaps so long in opposition has sharpened their appetites but, if so, it doesn’t feel like it.

  • Phil Bradley

    Dave, the USA is pushing FTAs with a number of countries that are considered reliable partners. The UK would certainly fit the criteria and there is a lot of goodwill towards the UK at the moment in the USA. I don’t foresee significant impediments to the UK concluding an FTA with the USA. But be aware these agreements are for free movement of goods and services, NOT people. You will not be able to move to LA and get a job.

    Having said that, free-er movement of people could be put on the NAFTA agenda and would be popular in Canada and Mexico.

  • Dave,

    I never listen to the young. Instead, I try to remember what I was like at their age.

    Of course, whether you are a Tory or not, being sixty-four doesn’t guarantee wisdom or generosity of spirit. My favourite bon mot about age – I believe it’s Japanese – is … At 10 years of age man is an animal, at 20 a lunatic, at 30 a failure, at 40 a fraud and at 50 a criminal.

    Well, I have passed each of those stations and I can tell you it’s all true – but not too literally, I hasten to add.

  • Andy Duncan

    G Cooper writes:

    At least then, what the Conservatives conspicuously lacked was a real will to win. Perhaps so long in opposition has sharpened their appetites but, if so, it doesn’t feel like it.

    Yes, this is the nature of constituency politics, I’m afraid. There are three kinds of constituency:

    A. The ones you always win:

    Not much going on there. You always win! :-)

    B. The ones you always lose:

    Not much going on there. You always lose :-(

    C. The marginals:

    Now even the marginals have been dire, in the last two elections, because most of them, for the Tories, have moved to category B. However, expect a lot more fun and games, at the next general election, at all of these.

    Labour will either lose narrowly, or win with a much smaller majority (say 10-40). Therefore, every potential winnable seat, about 200 or so, should be a lot more interesting.

    But if you are interested in getting involved, don’t bother with the local party volunteer officials. Irrelevant. Go straight to the MP’s, or standing candidate’s, Agent. Work only for them, or the MP directly, and they will mostly get you on the phone, phoning punters.

    And working for the Agent, you will get direct access to the MP (or candidate). Or the Agent will even ask you, if you want to become a candidate (and then MP). If they spot your potential, and you fancy it, this time in three years, G, you could BE that Tory MP on Newsnight, being ritually slaughtered by the great Paxman (is it me, or is it ironic that the root of Pax, is peace? :)

    Alternatively, don’t work for the local area. Just go straight to the top, and work for Central Office. Unfortunately, I can’t walk you in here. Get to know your local agent (again) first, and they will push you up the ladder, if you express an interest.

    It’s labyrinthine, I know, but Labour aren’t really bothered by us, seriously, until we start destroying their MPs. The best way, out of a lot of bad options, to do this, is to destroy their MPs with Tory MPs, and then either BE that MP, or work on them constantly, filling their heads with classical liberalism. If there’s another way to seriously damage the Labour Party, let me know, and I’ll be ‘on the mother’! :-)

    Actually, what we’ve got to do, is to persuad Mr Carr to become the Tory candidate for an inner London marginal, then we all help him win it, and Samizdata will have its very own MP! 8-)

  • Dave O'Neill

    What a tragic end to over a thousand years of history and for what a petty reason.

    Do you mind me asking what a 1000 years of history has to do with anything? That, in my mind, is a terribly petty reason to cite as an objection. The next 1000 years are also to be considered too.

    Phil,

    I still have my doubts about the US wanting free trade with an entity a tenth of the size of the entire US economy. That could be catastrophic for some of the marginal states with industries which are currently being nicely looked after. Theorectically, of course, Canada does have free movement, or at least, did prior to 9-11. I understand the waits on the border between BC and WA have become a nightmare.

  • Tony Blair’s popularity in the US is based on his standing with us (we love people who do that) and his standing up for the UK (we respect people who do that). He also enjoys the benefit of being over there. For all of his talent, his domestic agenda would get him nowhere in mainstream US politics were he an American.

  • S. Weasel

    Do you mind me asking what a 1000 years of history has to do with anything?

    If you have to ask, there’s probably no explaining it to you.

  • Have to agree that NAFTA would be problematic; the other non american FTA’s are with small economies like Singapore and OZ. Small economy big economy negotiations generally are easier to push through since one side holds the wip hand. By contrast you could see the UK-US negotiations dragging on for 20 years. As an example consider Open skies agreements – the US has these with loads of smaller European countries but the negotiations with the UK are deadlocked have been for years and will be for years

  • Dave O'Neill

    If you have to ask, there’s probably no explaining it to you

    So, in fact, you don’t really have a rational answer, other than the history ought to mean something?

    Some of the history is good, some pretty vile (my father was Irish, his family were thrown out of their home by the Black and Tans in one of Britains less noble foreign policy disasters). One of the things about Britain has been its historical ability to adapt to new things and new conditions over those 1000 years. I don’t want to live in a shallow imitation of that Britain which spends its time wallowing in historical nostalga about the past.

  • G Cooper

    Dave O’Neill writes:

    “Some of the history is good, some pretty vile (my father was Irish, his family were thrown out of their home by the Black and Tans in one of Britains less noble foreign policy disasters).”

    And would that family memory contribute to your astonishing conclusion that the past 1,000 years of British history matter less than your personal convenience?

    If you would willingly see Britain’s control over its own currency and economy be surrendered just so that you and a few tourists can buy their beer in Euros rather than suffer the horror of having to covert to and from a local currency, then so be it.

    Mercifully, I suspect the majority do care about both that and the foundations on which their country have been laboriously built over many hundreds of years. Presumably, you are one with comrade Blair and his proposed abolition of the Lord Chancellor’s office?

  • G Cooper

    Andy Duncan writes:

    “If they spot your potential, and you fancy it, this time in three years, G, you could BE that Tory MP on Newsnight, being ritually slaughtered by the great Paxman…”

    Heaven forbid! I’m made of quite the wrong stuff. I don’t doubt I’d look Paxman in the eye and tell him precisely what I think of his junior common room tactics. And then, of course, I’d be out of the job before I could pour my morning cornflakes…

    As for volunteering to help the Conservative party, I’m finding it very hard indeed to summon any enthusiasm for them. I don’t share your enthusiasm for your namesake and many of his sidekicks fill me with the same sense of revulsion as they do your average card-carrying Trot.

    Then again, come the great day and I might yet pitch-in if it helps dethrone Blair and his noxious cabal. It’s less a case of my enemy’s enemy being my friend than simply wanting to wipe the cocky smirk of the little pipsqueak’s face…

  • S. Weasel

    So, in fact, you don’t really have a rational answer, other than the history ought to mean something?

    [Profanity-laden smart-ass comeback removed upon reflection...]

    Take this, for example: the British political system has grown in an almost organic way over time. Unlike the American system (which borrows heavily from English experience anyway), it wasn’t the result of a single act of self-conscious assembly. Where dissatisfaction put pressure on a component of government, or an idea in law, it changed and adapted. But gradually, in a sort of very large, very long experiment.

    Frankly, it’s hard to see a better way of deriving a fair and stable form of government, given a populace that genuinely wants to be left in peace to get on with it. Why subordinate such a system to the untried notions of an inept foreign bureaucracy? And for the sake of simplified money exchange?

    You don’t have to resort to sentiment or patriotism to appreciate the value of a good system based on hundreds of years of of trial and error.

  • Dave

    G Cooper,

    And would that family memory contribute to your astonishing conclusion that the past 1,000 years of British history matter less than your personal convenience?

    Well, when was the last time the British government threw you out of your home and took all the possessions you couldn’t carry – of course my family remained stauch loyalists fighting on the losing side of the Civil War, but that does give me a less than “rose tinted” view of British history.

    With regard to convenience, I see it from a different perspective. I think there should be minimal state controls on movement across borders and currency transactions, and if loosing the pound is a price. I’m happy for it to be paid.

    I’m no particular fan of French inspired lunacy at the EU, but that is not the only way to run it. Anything which limits international business or causes undue cost to an international business is a bad thing.

  • Dave

    You don’t have to resort to sentiment or patriotism to appreciate the value of a good system based on hundreds of years of of trial and error.

    It is true the British system has been stable, but excuse me for not falling over fawning at the alter of the great British government.

    We have an effective parliamentary dictatorship with few controls on the liberty of the individual citizen. That alone should make anybody with a liberal and/or libertarian perspective have little love lost for a system which can allow Blair, Blunkett and their nefarious hangers on to push through some of the most serious restrictions on the rights on the individual since Michael Howard was involved.

    Simplified currency exchange is a simplistic view of a complex issue which as the heart of ensuring free movement and free trade.

  • G Cooper

    Dave writes:

    “I’m no particular fan of French inspired lunacy at the EU, but that is not the only way to run it. Anything which limits international business or causes undue cost to an international business is a bad thing.”

    Leaving aside the personal reasons for your ‘less than rose tinted’ view of British history, it seems to me rather sad that the only consideration you appear to have for the future political course of this country is dictated by the convenience of businesses.

    A country and its culture cannot be subsumed by some reductionist creed which strips it down to what aids, or inhibits, its business affairs. They are important, yes – but they cannot be paramount.

    Even then, what makes you believe that the EU is not that very thing you seem so to disparage – a barrier to free trade? It is a bloc. That is what blocs are. If free trade is what you’re after, then dismantling the EU as soon as humanly possible should be your goal – not sacrificing the pound for the sake of some Blairite opium dream of a golden promised land.

  • Dave

    it seems to me rather sad that the only consideration you appear to have for the future political course of this country is dictated by the convenience of businesses.

    Economic prosperity is what makes this country a good place to live. In fact, all partisan politics aside, most European countries are, for similar reasons quite nice places to live. So is North America.

    Again you talk of “sacraficing the pound”. Its a currency, in modern times what does that mean? There are sound economic concerns; taxation and interest rate policy being two of them, but appealing to my nostalga? The EU has huge problems with its friendliness to enterprise and business which need to be changed, but it still makes our lives easier than a generation ago.

    People worry about their lives, their wealth, their jobs, the state of national services, crime and many things.

    The culture that defines us is not a static thing, its dynamic – the Britain I live in today isn’t the Britain I was born in. Its certainly not the Britain my father arrived in in 1942 or my mother was born to in 1931.

    This “conservative” attitude that there is something magical about the pound and some distorted view of Britain is ridiculous and does more harm to Conservatives than pretty much anything else.

  • Phil Bradley

    Dave O’Neill, Canadians are allowed to work in the USA under essentially the same conditions as any other nationality. The main differences are they are not subject to a work visa quota and the visa is renewable indefinitely.

    Its not generally appreciated that assuming you can get someone to offer you a job or consulting work, for most professionals of any nationality, working in the USA is not that difficult.

    If you were to have free movement of labour under a USA/UK FTA, then I would anticipate a significant population move to the USA, which in itself would be percieved as a problem, probably more in the UK than the USA.

    I don’t see the size of the UK economy as a serious problem to an FTA. UK/USA trade is really quite small compared overall USA trade and the size of their economy.

  • S. Weasel

    This “conservative” attitude that there is something magical about the pound and some distorted view of Britain is ridiculous and does more harm to Conservatives than pretty much anything else.

    You’re the one that keeps bringing “magic” and emotion into the equation. Techniques, commodities and institutions that are tried and proven should not be tossed aside for those that are untried and unproven unless there is a high probability that the new will be an improvement. A significant improvement, since the change alone costs a bit of chaos and instability.

    In the case of the euro, it looks from the outside as though it has been tried and proven…a growing problem for nations adopting it. Why would Britain want such a thing?

  • G Cooper

    Dave writes:

    “Economic prosperity is what makes this country a good place to live.”

    I see. So that’s all there is to it?

    This is, as I’ve said before, purest Blairite ‘we must “modernise” and damn the consequences’ nonsense.

    No… make that crap.

    If economic freedom is all you aspire to, try Hong Kong. You can do what you like, economically – just don’t dare criticise the government.

    You go on to claim: “The EU has huge problems with its friendliness to enterprise and business which need to be changed, but it still makes our lives easier than a generation ago.”

    Really? You’re sure of that? I’d like to see even a shred of evidence.

    The EU is a statist bloc.. a bureaucratic nightmare, an authoritarian’s wet dream. Aside from the fact that it lets you buy a beer in the same Mickey Mouse currency in whichever pretend country you happen to be in, could you explain to me just how it makes my life easier than it was a generation ago?

    And, by the way, I was doing business in Europe “a generation ago.”

    More to the point, just how do you square its aims with anything even remotely approximating to a libertarian point of view?

  • Dave

    Phil: I’ve had to go through the hoops required to get a H1B and on another occasion an L1, its not easy even with a company backing you.

    G Cooper:
    I see. So that’s all there is to it?

    Pretty much, I’ve lived in France, the US and the UK – in terms of the quality of life each had pluses and minuses, I’m back in the UK at the moment, but am contemplating a move back to the US with work. Either that or maybe France again.

    In terms of what life was like a generation ago. This is a bit like asking “what have the romans ever done for us?” On a personal level, my wealth has increased, labour mobility around the EU, removal of currency and capital restrictions, the list gets boring.

    I don’t know what business you did a generation ago, but I work in professional services and its got dramatically easier since 1992 in my field. My biggest commercial headaches are currently caused by fluctations in exchange rates which can obliterate my profit margins.

    The EU has a big anti-liberatarian streak, but so does every political party in the UK. This quaint but silly notion that somehow the British political parties are more libertarian is nonsense. I’d rather, myself, see libertarian goals pushed across Europe rather than pulling up the drawbridge.

  • Dave

    S Weasel,

    Techniques, commodities and institutions that are tried and proven since the change alone costs a bit of chaos and instability.

    I don’t agree with this. Apart from the conclusion not following logically from the initial statement, I’m not convinced that many of these “techniques, commodities and institutions” are as good as you seem to think they are.

    I wouldn’t recommend Britain joining the Euro at the moment, however, it would be idiocy of the highest order to rule it our permanently should it be in the best interests of the economy.

  • S. Weasel

    You don’t think having your own currency and control thereof has been proven to be a good thing?

    Huh.

  • Kodiak

    I wish you every pleasure as you speculate hard to know if an antiEuro Trojan horse in Tory disguise is desirable, possible or dreamable…

    The poll mentioned by The Economist is really interesting; it’s a poll though ie, not even a hope.

    What wasn’t delivered in The Economist is a breakdown of the results according to UK regions or shires or whatever. This is really too bad.

    It would have been of interest to know the trend for Northern Ireland, the only bit of the UK that’s bordering an EU & Euroland member: Ireland. I’ve got the feeling the immense majority of the Northern Irish actually want the euro as to be legal tender as fast as possible. Isn’t the euro already enormously used in Northern Ireland? Most of the shops accept it & some of them do more business in euro than in the local UK currency. I’m not too sure but it could be that even cash dispensers deliver euro notes.

    The ackward & burlesque situtation of the pound in Northern Ireland is similar to the one of the Mexican peso in Tijuana or Ciudad Juarez.

    What is the British government doing to protect its scared citizens against the devouring Euromonster?

  • Dave

    You don’t think having your own currency and control thereof has been proven to be a good thing?

    Not really. If we compare 2 similarly sized industrial economies like, for example, France and the UK. France has bad unemployment and inflation and low growth and yet has the same GDP, a trade surplus, several major manufacturing industries, a space program which is effectively its own, a huge civil nuclear program, its own nuclear weapons program and missiles and a bunch of other things like that.

    Oh, and I believe that now the pound is weaker they’re back to being number 4 in the world and the UK is 5th.

    If our great currency gives us growth, low inflation and low unemployment and yet a trade deficit, virtually no manufacturing, a military depedant on the US and that sort of thing then you can keep it.

  • Kodiak

    Dave,

    Do you need glasses to help you ferret out the right figures?

    Inflation rates (France/UK):
    1,8/2,1 (2000)
    1,8/2,1 (2001)
    1,9/2,2 (2002)
    1,6/3,1 (2003)
    1,4/2,8 (2004)
    The UK has a bigger inflation.

    Unemployement rates (France/UK) >>> please note that french & UK calculations systems are not “harmonised” >>> a “job” in the UK may not be considered so in France
    9,4/5,4 (2000)
    8,6/5,1 (2001)
    8,9/5,2 (2002)
    9,3/5,4 (2003)
    9,2/5,2 (2004)
    France has more unemployment & a stricter definition of what a real job is.

    GDP growth rate (France/UK)
    4,2/3,1 (2000)
    1,8/2,1 (2001)
    1,2/1,8 (2002)
    1,2/2,1 (2003)
    2,6/2,6 (2004)
    Except in 2000 when the UK was really lagging behind, the two countries show very comparable rates.

    Current payment balance (France/UK) as % of the GDP
    +1,3/-2,0
    +1,6/-1,3
    +2,1/-0,8
    +2,4/-1,4
    +2,2/-2,0
    France outsmarts the UK.

    If your political hopes are as grounded as your economical analysis is, well, good luck! Next time you speak about “our great currency”, you’ll probably mean the euro…

  • Dave

    Kodiak,

    I think you need to read my posts again. The comment in italics was Mr Weasel’s attempt at a negative question, trying to get me to say that of course the Pound was good.

    I have no misconceptions on that score.

    But thanks for providing the data. I was incorrect on the Inflation and the growth rates are better than I thought.

    But the point is well made.

    Dave

  • Kodiak

    Dave,

    Sorry: I indeed made an amalgam of your posts (so you’re not agaisnt the euro ???) & the rest.

    Still I really wonder why you lose your time DREAMING about how to stop the euro as it is already circulating in Northern Ireland & in London of course (not to mention all the UK people that go to France euroshopping or even getting decent medical interventions…).

  • Dave

    I have no problem with the Euro, it would make my personal life and business life a hell of a lot easier.

    I don’t think the time is right currently for the Pound to join and I have infrastructure related questions concerning solving regional issues which France, Germany and the rest are “piloting” but aside from that I have no idiological problem with the Euro.

    I live in a seriously tourist orientated town where you can already spend Euro’s, and, for a ruinous exchange rate, dollars. Likewise I was in Denmark last week where they took Euro’s.

    It’s coming, tradition be damned.
    If it makes sound business sense, which ultimately I believe it does, then we should and will join.

  • Kodiak

    Full generous applause.

  • A_t

    “France has more unemployment & a stricter definition of what a real job is.”

    this is true; a friend of mine who was a musician (and hence often claiming dole) got on a New Deal program where he became “self-employed”… This basically meant whenever he didn’t have work, he received the same benefits as he did before, plus an extra tenner a week. Other than that, life was pretty much the same, but presumably he no longer figured on the unemployment figures.

    One wonders how many people are in similar situations across the UK.

  • Kodiak

    A_t,

    Don’t worry: French government (left & right) have always been desirous to “arrange” unemployment figures by delivering higher & higher standards for dole eligibility. I suppose it’s the same stuff in almost every country…

    Still I think some job conditions considered perfectly legal in the UK are stricly forbidden in France.

    There’s also what we call “le noir” (the black) which is a kind of underground (no tax) economy. Some people having a job or being on the dole actually do some “business” to increase their home pay. I imagine it’s the same in the UK, isn’t it?