On the Politics Joe podcast
'The Khmer Rouge with cameras.'
Last week marked the debut of the Politics Joe podcast. I gave it a listen and I have to say, despite the danger to my membership of the Conservative Party, I found it genuinely interesting.
There was plenty I disagreed with them on: abolishing tuition fees, windfall taxes, the idea of an opt-in monarchy, declaring some kind of war of the Isle of Wight (even though an ex lives there).
But there was a worrying amount I agree with them on. They did a long segment on housing for instance, talking about how rising house prices were doing violence to both productivity and community by forcing young people to choose between being able to buy in the areas where they grew up and going to work in areas where there are high-paying jobs. Frankly, I didn’t think they went far enough.
They also spoke about the dire impeding energy shortfall and the need to secure national energy self-sufficiency via a massive expansion of nuclear capacity. I agreed with analysis that we are, as a nation, basically incapable of building any kind of infrastructure anywhere, ever. I agreed with the need to up state capacity through increased state spending, even.
How did I, a who errs towards National Conservativism, end up agreeing on a dangerous amount with the staff of Politics Joe, whom a fellow Tory once described to me as ‘the Khmer Rouge with cameras’?
A large part of this is down to generational shift. Politics Joe appeals to a younger demographic which, avoiding obvious cracks about my dodgy shoulder or massive red wine intake, I’m on the ‘right’ side of.
Broadly, this younger generation are facing the biggest fall in living standards on record after 15 years of wage stagnation. They, as a shrinking workforce, are being asked to support an increasing population of increasingly wealthy dependents with increasing amounts of tax - despite facing increasing housing and childcare costs.
Where Politics Joe and I agree is the desperate need for policy action that is going to help address this intergenerational disparity. That means, in most general terms, enabling home ownership and redressing the outsize tax burden of the young - at the expense, if necessary, of more happier generations. The government’s overwhelming reliance on the votes of boomers means it is held in line against policies that would ensure increased rates of home ownership or economic growth.
Whilst the staff of Politics Joe wouldn’t welcome what I’m about to say, this is a particularly Thatcherite concern: One of the great underpinnings of Thatcherism was the belief that an increase in popular participation in capitalism would create a better society; enabling people to accrue enough wealth for them to stand on their own two feet would, it was hoped, create a society of greater self-respect and dignity. To pursue this goal, Thatcher engaged in what can be called ‘a democratisation of capitalism’, enabling a far greater number of people to gain sources of wealth through a combination of privatisation and the creation of a property-owning democracy.
The problem is that the levers to wealth Thatcher placed in people’s hands have remained in the same hands and successive Conservative governments haven’t provided the same route to wealth accrual for future generations. The team at Politics Joe, Tom Harwood and Robert Colville are all YIMBYs because - despite their different backgrounds - they recognise the moral, social and economic squalor that results in the failure to provide people with places to live.
Similarly, Politics Joe and I see the long shadow of ‘market fundamentalism’ as a problem; but whilst they see the private sector as inherent evil that must be rolled back wherever it is found, I see it as a magnificent force for enrichment which doesn’t always value the right things. For Politics Joe, Government needs to be strong in order to replace the market. For me, Government needs to be strong in order to provide a framework for the market to work within.
As I wrote in The Critic a while back, Tories erring towards National Conservativism like me recognise that what begins as an economic efficiency often ends in social catastrophe. A strong, interventionist government is needed to play a preventative, rather than just palliative role – but we also recognise that a purely redistributive state is not the politics of the common good, as handouts can never restore pride or dignity to those who receive them. What is required is a far more fundamental reorientation of economic policy than reallocating ever increasing amounts from those who enjoy the benefits of globalisation to those who bear the costs.
Of course, these are only economic issues. On culture issues I’m sure the Politics Joe team would think I’m Genghis Khan with a shit moustache. I’m sure I’d think they were the essence of the New Elite in a Depop wardrobe. But these economic questions – inequality, national resilience and reorienting government and politics to globalisation – are the issues driving the politics of the future.
As Sebastian Milbank notes, ‘I've never seen such consensus, across the political spectrum, that Britain is a nation in decline.’ The right wing needs to recognise the work at hand and find a way to deliver it because, of we can’t find a way to address these issues, we’ll leave the field open for the left. Then the glass won’t just be half empty: it’ll be half full of piss as well.
Thanks for reading The Potemkin Village Idiot! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.