The Sunday Poast
All the Views What's Fit to Print
Welcome to The Sunday Poast, a weekly round up of things I’ve been reading I’d like to share and highlight to help build up a picture of what the collective mission and purpose of conservatives should look like. That means explaining what road we’re on, how we got there and where we’re going - ideally, a conservative Britain fit for the 21st Century.
This week I wrote for CapX on the Triple Lock, arguing Britain's intergenerational disparity means Brits should be as angry as the French about pensions – but for different reasons.
On Substack I wrote about the idea of deplatforming noted soup hurler Phoebe Plummer, asking whether, if her style of argument makes it more difficult to engage in a meaningful debate around climate, should she have a meaningful role to play in those debates?
And on Sunday last week I popped up on the Stephen Nolan Show, debating the government’s new plans to tackle anti-social behaviour with former Minister of State for Crime Prevention Norman Baker. He was tough on Tom Jones, tough on the causes of Tom Jones.
A new kind of conservativism
On Monday I ravelled down to that London they have now to hear Matt Goodwin speak at that Unherd Club on the ‘Technocrat Restoration’. Matt is doing the circuit promoting his new book, which broadly shores up the foundation of my politics; there is a new dividing line in politics, and the only way forward for conservatives is something approaching ‘National conservativism’, a coherent and positive ‘politics of Somewhere.’
But… how likely am I to get what I want? On his substack, Matt Goodwin has run some polling that shows plenty of space for a new kind of conservativism:
If the Conservative Party walks meaningfully into this space, in other words, if the party reshapes itself around a commitment to lowering immigration, pushing back against the cultural left, and being unafraid to prioritise and promote Britain’s distinctive identity then it will almost certainly find a receptive audience —especially though not exclusively among its former voters. Indeed, many of these views are also held by significant numbers of Labour voters, such as wanting to push back against political correctness and reduce immigration, reflecting how, like Brexit, they are ‘cross-cutting’ in nature, reaching across the Left and Right divide…
I’m not the only one to find this, by the way. Other pollsters also point to the large amount of space that now exists in British politics for a party which campaigned for a tougher approach on law and order, tighter restrictions on immigration, to keep the country out of foreign wars, and which is willing to regulate big business. And I’ve also written about this space before, using different data, finding a very similar picture to the one I’ve just painted for you.
A new kind of charity
Since 2010, successive Conservative governments have failed comprehensively to prevent a wholesale left-wing takeover of public life. in fact, it is hard to think of a single institution in Britain that has not pivoted towards progressive ideology of one kind or another.
In The Times, Tomiwa Owolade writes that Oxfam has been similarly weaponised to advance an expressly progressive, liberal agenda - but that perhaps the most infuriating part of this trend is that everyone pretends they’re not taking part in the culture war at all:
In its obsession with a particular kind of unintelligible social justice rhetoric, Oxfam has undermined the clarity with which it has previously distinguished itself. In its fascination with purely symbolic gestures against inequality and injustice, it has lost sight of what actually challenges those forces: the material, the pragmatic, the real.
Oxfam is pursuing a disastrous culture war and pretending it is not. Describing sex as “assigned” by society rather than biology is not an objective scientific fact but a contentious ideological claim. Reducing women to their biology is divisive. Invoking the jargon of American social justice is not inclusive but the very opposite; alienating to anyone unfamiliar with the latest trends on social media and academia, it furnishes those who use it with a condescending outlook.
A new kind of state
I started my series on austerity with a look at the failure of the government then to reduce the role of the state or get the engines of growth roaring. In government Conservatives have, by and large, failed to recognise the need for the state do do a lot less, but perform that significantly more limited role significantly more capably.
On his Substack, John Oxley takes on ‘the Shit State Tories’ and argues that, If the Conservative Party truly wants to be the party of limited government, it needs to start limiting government:
The shit state is now evident for all to see. Our services feel stretched, despite a record share of GDP being taken in taxation. There are daily stories of public services falling short, and frightening long-term examples of the state failing - from the ongoing post office scandal to the grooming gangs. These are not simply failures of funding, but of leadership and organisation too.
The horizon looks little better. The future state will be impacted by significant demographic challenges. During the next few decades, the number of older people dependent on the state will increase as the number of workers declines. More will need to be spent on pensions, social care and expensive health treatments while there are fewer workers to pay into the system. Absent significant economic growth, that will mean some combination of higher taxes, more borrowing, and less spending on other aspects of the state.
A new kind of economy
One of the great mistakes of British economics decisions is that successive governments have failed to take sufficient interest in our economic resilience, with short-termist government preferring quicker returns and easier decisions.
But that overexposure - combined with our overspending - has left democratically elected governments exposed to the whims of the markets, as Harry Clynch writes in The Critic:
It’s true that a country which borrows as much as Britain is dependent on the goodness of strangers. Bond issuers aren’t obliged to give us their cash, and they are in a powerful position to set the terms. That would seem to be a strong argument in favour of reducing government borrowing and therefore lessening the country’s exposure to foreign creditors. Bond vigilantes are also less powerful at times of lower inflation and lower interest rates, which is strong motivation in itself to get prices back under control.
It might have been politically useful for Sunak and Starmer to pretend that the market reaction to the mini-budget was a wholly rational response to the policies of their political opponents. Whatever one’s politics, it’s a worrying state of affairs when financial markets are able to push governments around at whim, particularly when they operate in such a subjective and illogical fashion. It’s time to think carefully about how markets work and how to reduce their sway over elected governments.
A new kind of finance
Defence is one of the few continued industrial success stories in Britain. High-skilled, long-term jobs (largely outside the south east) delivering world-class technology that keeps Britain safe - peace through superior firepower.
But despite its’ success, Britain’s arms industry is under threat from the rise in environmental, social and governance scores in investment decisions, as Sarah Ingham reports in ConHome:
A special report in the Economist noted that arms makers were “shunned by the ESG crowd”. Despite being one of the UK’s most successful companies, set to deliver the Future Combat Air System among other major projects, last summer Charles Woodward, the Chief Executive of BAE Systems, told the Sunday Times that battled “ESG headwinds”.
As the ConservativeHome Defence and Security Conference heard earlier this month, Britain’s smaller defence-related companies can find that banks and other potential investors take a less than sympathetic view of them, sin stocks that they supposedly are.
The Sunday Papers
A new paper from the Economy 2030 Inquiry lays out the frank argument that public investment has been too low and too volatile, and this needs to be changed to help Britain get back on solid footing:
Britain is an international laggard when it comes to public investment – consistently featuring in the weakest third of OECD countries. Had the UK’s levels been at the OECD average over the past two decades, public investment would have been a truly transformational £500 billion higher (in 2022 prices).
The failure to provide consistent funding for our transport, housing, healthcare and local services has clear consequences in our day-to-day lives: it lies behind the fact that we have fewer hospital beds per person than all bar one OECD advanced country, and spend more time commuting than all bar two.
Not quite a paper, but this Twitter thread by Chris Smyth of the Times on the potential disaster Britain’s pension system is steaming towards is absolutely terrifying:
We are currently at a 20-year low in number of pensioners supported per worker. But that's going to increase by 40% in next half century to 4 pensioners for every 10 people of working age
And as the smart ship grew
In stature, grace, and hue,
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.
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