Miles BenningtonEditor at Chamber
Alluding today to Bill Gates’ alleged observation that people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten, Jeremy Hunt seems to have forgotten that there is an election due in less that two.
Long term economic plan
Name checking successful industries, new technologies and British start-ups the Chancellor set out the traditional refrain of economy Ministers around the world, that he wanted to create a “new silicon valley”.
In fairness, the Chancellor warned that “this is a plan for growth and not a series of measures or announcements, which will have to wait for budgets and autumn statements in the years ahead” before giving a speech that any doctrinaire leader of a Young Conservative group could have given.
In nebulous ways the Government will support “to the hilt” people who want to create successful industries, presumably ending the previous 12 years of obstruction?
The Government will now focus on the four “E’s”, Enterprise, Education, Employment and Everywhere. E-literation aside, this slogan is unlikely to displace “Levelling Up” as a Governing mantra and while these are worthy aims they are so light on substance as to be ethereal.
This is disappointing from an impressive Minister who has made a good start as Chancellor. Since attaining the post Jeremy Hunt has calmed the markets, delivered a huge tranche of help for people’s energy bills and resisted throwing any additional fuel on the fire of inflation.
Indeed, a focus on inflation as the “fastest tax cut” that the Government could deliver was a welcome spoonful of reality among a lot of syrupy boosterism. His restraint in not cutting taxes is to be commended. While avoiding being “gloomsters”, there has been a refreshing breeze reality blowing through Westminster lately, it would be a shame if this speech is a sign that the weathervane is pointing back towards empty boosterism.
Perhaps the last two Prime Ministers have overloaded my capacity for sap but now, in difficult times for the economy and for global security, I would like someone to explain to me the blood, toil tears and sweat and lay off the sunlit uplands for a minute.
The truth, the hard truth, is that to tame inflation, unemployment may have to rise. To invest in decarbonisation we will need to cut spending on other things, raise taxes or both. Even investing in education comes and a cost and therefore entails some risk (why teach essay writing when ChatGPT can do it for us?).
I long for a politician of any stripe to explain the downsides, the risks and the dangers inherent in the hard decisions they are making, even a little bit.
Jeremy Hunt today set out the outlines of a vision for a plan, which, perhaps, given a decade in Government he could point to as the guiding principles of what he did and why. He is not going to get a decade to make good on these words.
In the next two years the economy will likely be assailed not merely by a boom-and-bust cycle but by actual shortages of inputs, increasing distance between the UK and our primary export market and rising inefficiency as public services continue to erode or break down.
There are real solutions to these problems that even a two-year Government could implement, relaxing immigration restrictions, coming to terms with the EU and reducing our exposure to international energy markets would all be a good start. Sadly, these are also politically difficult decisions that would need explaining to the public. It seems that politicians have such a low opinion of the public that they cannot ever deliver bad news. I think if we ever get a Government willing to explain why tough decisions need to be made, they may be surprised at how we react.