Incentives – How the fiscal statement will change behaviour

Image by Stefan Schweihofer from Pixabay

“why do we think that “changing the incentives will in no way change behaviour”?”

The September 2022 fiscal statement from Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, is proving controversial for among other reasons, the ‘cost’ of the tax cuts it contains.  For a tax cut to be a ‘cost’ you need to make a couple of assumptions, that (1) allowing people to keep their own money is a ‘cost’, and (2) that changing the incentives will in no way change people’s behaviour.

To tackle the first point that “allowing people to keep their own money is a ‘cost’”.  If last month you worked some overtime and say earned an extra £300, but this month you didn’t have the same opportunity to work the overtime, would you say your costs had gone up by £300?  Of course not, no one would say that.  Most January’s many businesses will put on sales often cutting prices by a third or more.  Do we refer to these price cuts as an increase in costs?  Do the price cuts get added as Expenditure to the company’s accounts?  For both personal and business expenditure we see reduced revenue as just that, reduced revenue, not a new or increased cost.  Many people don’t particularly want to work overtime, valuing free time more than the money they earn from extra work.  In the case of businesses, we don’t bemoan the cost of reduced prices, we see this as an opportunity for the business to get rid of old stock, gain market share, or simply get more sales.  Reduced prices provide an incentive that changes the behaviour of consumers.  So why do we refer to changes in tax rates as a cost?  And to the second point above, why do we think that “changing the incentives will in no way change behaviour”?

Why do sin taxes exist if not in part to disincentivise people from undertaking the sin? 

I have written before about the Laffer Curve (Blacklist Press), (Croydon Constitutionalists), the theory that cutting tax rates can result in increased total tax revenue, but even if you are sceptical of this, we all know taxes change incentives.  Why do sin taxes exist if not in part to disincentivise people from undertaking the sin?  Why are ISAs tax-free if not to encourage savings?  Why does the government offer businesses R&D tax relief if not to encourage more Research and Development?

“It might be fair to say these changes are not incentive enough to make up for the reduced revenue of the tax cuts (I would disagree) but it is not reasonable to argue that there is no change to behaviour”

Clearly cutting taxes will impact the behaviour of people.  Lower National Insurance rates incentivises employment, lower taxes on profits incentivises business investment, and lower taxes on income incentivises both increased work and releasing invested funds for personal use.  It might be fair to say these changes are not incentive enough to make up for the reduced revenue of the tax cuts (I would disagree) but it is not reasonable to argue that there is no change to behaviour as a result of these changes.

The government didn’t just change tax rates in the budget fiscal statement.  We heard about changes both to the Inland Revenue rules known as IR35, and the cap on bankers’ bonuses.  Wikipedia refers to IR35 as “anti-avoidance tax legislation designed to tax ‘disguised’ employment at a rate similar to employment”.  First introduced in April 2000, the rules have changed over the years, with the latest change being to repeal the 2017 and 2021 reforms. 

“The naïve assumption behind IR35 is that by changing the tax rules for contractors, you will simply earn the same gross pay and pay more tax, receiving less net pay.  Of course, this is nonsense”

IR35 was trying to stop people filling basically the same role, from being taxed differently based on how they are employed.  This sounds reasonable, except of course that how you are employed does affect your role, and in some cases means different incentives, in this case partly via taxes, should apply.  I have worked in the same industry as an employee, what is referred to as Inside IR35 (in effect agency staff), and Outside IR35 (via a limited company) often referred to as a contractor.  The naïve assumption behind IR35 is that by changing the tax rules for contractors, you will simply earn the same gross pay and pay more tax, receiving less net pay.  Of course, this is nonsense.  Being a contractor comes with additional risks and costs, you really need an accountant, you invariably need to take out additional insurances, and a private pension.  You tend to change role frequently as companies only want you on the books for peak demand, and your lack of security of tenure both provides an incentive to be productive and means you tend to have a good buffer of savings for those periods when you are not earning. 

You might wonder, why anyone would be a contractor with all these downsides?  Well of course it’s because you are incentivised by earning more.  These earnings are both in gross pay (invoices into your limited company) and net pay (working via a company being more tax efficient).  When the Inland Revenue changed these incentives, did they see lots of people stay as they were and simply pay more tax?  No of course not, change the incentives and people move.  The costs and risks stayed high, but rewards reduced, so guess what, people moved to lower risk roles.  It’s not clear to me that the government has ever made more or less money when I have been employed via any of the different methods available.  But what is clear is that the economy has lost flexibility in its labour force, business savings, purchasing of goods and services, charity donations and productivity, when I and others like me simply don’t have the money or the incentives needed for these.

“Over the same period salaries improved to retain and recruit staff in a competitive IT market.  Total reward didn’t change much but the incentive structure did”

Lastly, bankers’ bonuses are not a subject likely to draw huge amounts of sympathy.  But that doesn’t mean private enterprise shouldn’t be able to pay people via the incentive method they believe is best suited for the role.  I worked in banking during the financial crisis and saw my bonus structure change and total bonus reduce.  I should say I worked for a retail bank in the IT department, so the sums involved were far away from those being earned by city traders, but to me and my colleagues they mattered.  Over the same period salaries improved to retain and recruit staff in a competitive IT market.  Total reward didn’t change much but the incentive structure did.  If you believe that moving from a pay structure that in large part rewarded outcomes, to one that mainly rewarded showing up, didn’t have an impact on productivity, we must discuss terms on that bridge I have for sale.

Removing the bankers bonus cap doesn’t increase costs or total reward, it changes the incentive.  Changes to IR35 and tax rates are not costs to government, they change the economy and provide the opportunity (they haven’t gone far enough), to develop the more dynamic high growth economy that will benefit us all.

Is this how a council is meant to function and Does democracy travel at 20mph?

In three articles from 2016 and 2017 Mike Swadling writes in the Croydon Citizen – ‘Is this how a council is meant to function?’, ‘Does democracy travel at 20mph?’ and about a local Special Needs School, St Giles.

Is this how a council is meant to function?

“Alison Butler, answered most of these questions. It is fair to say that the cabinet councillors’ answers did little to pacify the view of those that I was in the room with. This is understandable given the amazingly dismissive attitude that councillor Butler displayed”

“Two answers underlined the attitude. When asked about traffic problems, cabinet member for transport and environment councillor Stuart King didn’t know the difference between the A232 and A23”

“The whole meeting continued on this theme: we didn’t see councillors debating the issue of Croydon, instead we saw politicians point- scoring. Given the lack of local media coverage of these meetings they were mainly doing this for their own party members”

Full article: https://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20190509180817/https:/thecroydoncitizen.com/politics-society/council-meant-function/

Does democracy travel at 20mph?

“The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of democracy includes the definition of “the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges”. This leads to a question – why is Croydon Council looking to have a two-tier democracy in the borough?”

“The people had a chance to respond to the opinion surveys, and they responded in favour of the 20mph speed limits. Whatever your personal view on the speed limits, believers in democracy would therefore agree that they should be implemented”

“Why are council officers, people paid by us to serve us, recommending taking away our right to a democratic process?
Why does the Labour council not consider the people of Coulsdon, Kenley, New Addington, Shirley, Waddon and other areas worthy of having the same democratic rights as the people of Thornton Heath and Addiscombe?”

Full article: https://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20190509174356/https:/thecroydoncitizen.com/politics-society/democracy-20mph/

St Giles: a very special school indeed

“Croydon has six dedicated special schools and over a dozen Enhanced Learning Provision units inside mainstream schools. These schools meet a wide range of needs for pupils with profound, severe and moderate learning difficulties, autism, physical disabilities and speech and language difficulties. The six schools have between them over 700 pupils on the roll.”

Full article: https://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20190509173851/https:/thecroydoncitizen.com/politics-society/st-giles-a-very-special-school-indeed/

Britain, suffering from a lack of Ronseal Quick Drying Woodstain

By Mike Swadling

“I don’t feel I would have this problem if I worked for the government. I mean for starters they don’t seem to have anything that works”

I have a habit of referring to things that work as Ronseal Quick Drying Woodstain.  Many of you will remember the 1990s advert that proclaimed that Ronseal Quick Drying Woodstain, does exactly what it says on the tin. 

One of the challenges with this and my many other 80s/90s British TV references is that in these increasingly interconnected times the person I’m speaking to either isn’t in the U.K. or doesn’t remember most of the 90s let alone the 80s.

I don’t feel I would have this problem if I worked for the government. I mean for starters they don’t seem to have anything that works and there is certainly nothing that does exactly what it says on the tin.

“Surely, they are driving the water companies to invest more and improve services.  They must surely be imposing fines on water companies for reduced service to customers through hosepipe bans.  No, quite the opposite”

The list is endless, as I write this, we have had a drought declared in some parts of the country.  We have also seen many news stories lamenting the lack of any new reservoirs in a period the population has increased by about 10 million.  Thames Water has a desalination plant they have never used, whilst at the same time they are imposing hosepipe bans. 

With all this going on where are Ofwat the water regulator?  Where is the Environment Agency?  Surely, they are leading the fight to get people water.  Surely, they are driving the water companies to invest more and improve services.  They must surely be imposing fines on water companies for reduced service to customers through hosepipe bans.  No, quite the opposite.  Ofwat commissioned a 2018 paper “to analyse and present the options available for making deep reductions to per-capita consumption over a minimum fifty-year period”.  Water companies are far from blameless for the failure to keep a plentiful supply of water flowing, but when Thames Water did try to build a new reservoir in Oxfordshire, the Environment Agency blocked it on the grounds there was apparently no need for it.  This isn’t all that new, the 2014 flooding of the Somerset Levels, was widely blamed in part on the Environment Agency’s decision to stop dredging the rivers, something they were tasked with undertaking, for the purpose of reducing flooding. 

But it’s not just water management that doesn’t work in the UK.  The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy exists yet our island made of coal, with gas and oil reserves and an advanced nuclear power industry, is not expected to have enough power generation this winter.  Of course, as is made clear in a March statement to Parliament, the department puts every barrier in the way to fracking.  Not long before he became Deputy Prime Minister, that visionary Nick Clegg expressed his opposition to new nuclear power stations as they would take too long to come online.  Of course, the prediction had they been commissioned then is they would have come online about now, right when we need them!

Net Zero and the green agenda are in large part behind these departments working towards grand environmental plans, rather than for the benefit of taxpayers.  But it’s not just on the environment our government lacks the essence of doing what it says on the tin, take for example public health.  Public Health England before they were dissolved had some 5,000 staff, who whilst very productive at telling us how to live our lives were woefully under prepared for Covid 19.  Public Health didn’t protect the publics health, they did however lead to the shutdown of our economy and massive loss of freedom.

Failure is in all parts of our government.  Paul Lincoln the disastrous Director General of the Border Force from 2017 to 2021, described ‘bloody borders’ as ‘just such a pain in the bloody a***’.  Nationally the Police failed to solve a single theft in 84% of neighbourhoods in the past 3 years.  70% of Metropolitan Police officers didn’t make a single arrest in the past year and the RAF has seemingly stopped recruiting on ability but now recruit based on wokery.  We have a Bank of England that is charged with keeping inflation at around 2%, yet no one is losing their well-paid jobs as inflation soars above 10%.  None of these departments are Ronseal Quick Drying Woodstain, they are not even close.  The departments we pay taxes for, and the regulators we rely on, are consistently working against us.

“we need some desire from government to actually act to improve the lives of the citizens of the UK.  Let’s assume for a moment the next Prime Minister ushers that in, and I’m not saying I expect them to, but it is a prerequisite”

What can be done about this?  Firstly, we need some desire from government to actually act to improve the lives of the citizens of the UK.  Let’s assume for a moment the next Prime Minister ushers that in, and I’m not saying I expect them to, but it is a prerequisite.  We need to start with a requirement government departments and quangos act to improve the standard of living of law-abiding UK citizens.

The improvements they are planning to deliver needs to be codified, and for this all-government departments at all levels need published Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or targets.  Much maligned as targets are, without them we simply have no measure of success, or even an indication of what a department is trying to achieve.  There will be problems, some departments will focus on targets to the exclusion of other activity.  Some may cook the books on the numbers, and if staff submit fraudulent data, then action should be taken.  Others will set easily achieved goals, fine, better to achieve an easy goal that benefits us, than to actively work against our interests.  We will be able to see what an area of government believes is its purpose, and what success it has in achieving that goal. 

It seems as if nothing in government works.  Let’s get back to first principles across the state, with for instance a Police force who police, a Border force who protect the borders, water regulators who believe in ensuring people have water.  And with a costs of living crisis upon us, and a few troubled years ahead, lets hope someone in government apply the principles of Ronseal Quick Drying Woodstain, to provide the services we pay for.

Hey Council, leave my town alone…

My tuppenceworth speech by Mike Swadling

“I wrote in the Citizen about how plans to make Croydon a living wage borough, risks jobs at the proposed Westfield Shopping Centre, I note it has never been built”

The Licensing Act 1872 – among other things – stopped the practice of adding salt to drinks, which was originally put in beer to increase thirst and sales. This ‘improvement’ was made by the government to help us as consumers. I often think of how government intervention fails to improve things, as I pay for my own salted crisps to accompany a pint.

Words from my article for the Croydon Citizen from four years ago.  The article was extensively about how Croydon Council had destroyed the bustling night time economy of the town centre of my youth, through a series of bright ideas to “improve the town”.  These included a presumption to refuse new applications in the town centre for “premises used exclusively or primarily for the sale/supply of alcohol and/or loud amplified recorded music”.  The council was thankfully finally reversing this initiative.

When they were running, I wrote in the Citizen about how plans to make Croydon a living wage borough, risks jobs at the proposed Westfield Shopping Centre, I note it has never been built.  I also wrote about how the council spending £1.1 million on improving Surrey Street Market had led to over a 20% drop in traders.

“What business is it of mine if someone wants to build this?  What business is it of Croydon Council’s politicians or officers if someone wants to spend their sweat and treasure on building this?”

At our last My Tuppenceworth, I spoke about how we needed a Democratically Elected Mayor of Croydon, we now have one.  I now want to speak about how I implore that he and his council, leave my town, our town, alone.

We hear Westfield are once again looking to develop in Croydon.  This is great news, and something is much needed.  Now clearly the council needs to be involved in granting planning permission, and no doubt will need to weigh in on changes to roads, parking, and public transport.  They have a statutory duty to be involved in these areas, beyond that, I ask they stay well clear.

“please Croydon Council stay out of their way.  Beyond that, stop with any bright ideas, grand plans, and great initiatives”

The old Allders department store building, which before the council’s intervention had reinvented itself as a successful Village Outlet store, now has plans to become an arts venue.  The idea of a venue where you can, too quote “lose oneself in art, beyond digital culture, where we can connect in the real world, in deeper and more meaningful stories.”, frankly sounds potty to me.  But so what, I’m not their target market.  What business is it of mine if someone wants to build this?  What business is it of Croydon Council’s politicians or officers if someone wants to spend their sweat and treasure on building this?  Their initiative is to be welcomed, but please Croydon Council stay out of their way.  Beyond that, stop with any bright ideas, grand plans, and great initiatives.  I’m sure if you just get out of their way, you will find many willing to invest in our great town.

Coming together to ensure there is never another lockdown

My tuppenceworth speech by Mike Swadling

“It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.”

Solidarity, the Polish Trade Union, brought 10 million people together.  It survived a period of martial law imposed to crush it and helped bring about the downfall of their Communist government.  On November 9, 1989, it was announced that starting at midnight, citizens of East Germany were free to cross the country’s borders. East and West Berliners flocked to the wall.  As the border guard in charge frantically called his superiors, they gave no orders.  Overwhelmed he gave the command to “Open the barrier!”.  Both of these serve as a reminder that by coming together people can achieve the seemingly impossible.

Mahatma Gandhi, said “Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state has become lawless or corrupt. And a citizen who barters with such a state, shares in its corruption and lawlessness.”

The Reverend Martin Luther King said, “One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

Or as Aristotle put it “It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.”

“We need all of those who objected to any part of lockdown to come on board.  We don’t need to insist on total agreement or compliance, after all we are not them”

I’m not sure if we can stop a future lockdown.  My suspicion is government will be reluctant to impose another full lockdown.  They will instead salami slice our freedom away with the imposition of more and more restrictions that never fully disappear.  These will be much harder to oppose as each one will be minor and have some alleged practical argument in favour of it.  Whilst we may not be able to stop them, we can disobey them.   

We need to build a polarity if not a majority.  We need all of those who objected to any part of lockdown to come on board.  We don’t need to insist on total agreement or compliance, after all we are not them.  We are the free, we are the people who believe in live and let live.  

“we must once again, be not only free, but free from the fear of more government restrictions”

That means we will often find ourselves arm in arm with those we disagree with, and with whom we share little common ground.    But the common ground we have, the area we can agree on, and the way we build a group large enough to oppose lockdowns, is by banding with those who all agree we must once again, be not only free, but free from the fear of more government restrictions.

We should never try to impose this on others, we may need sometimes to follow the rules and pick our battles.  We should also never mock those who follow the rules.  Instead, we can simply go about our lives as a free people regardless of what government says or others do.

If the restrictions come again, we can meet in the park as many have, or better still pop round to each other’s homes.  If you can go into work, go in.  We can meet-up on public transport or at the supermarket.  With the exception of medical environments, refuse to wear a mask.  We can’t go to the pubs if they are closed but bring a bottle and you are all welcome around mine for drinks.

We need to build networks of the widest set of people. Not those who agree with us 100%, but who agree on this one issue.  In May we organised a hustings of otherwise disparate political parties who were all pro freedom and anti-lockdown.  Despite their differences, on this overwhelmingly important issue, they agreed and came together.  We must all do that, find that common ground with as many as possible, and defy anyone that ever tries to lock us down again.

My Tuppenceworth 2nd August – Speeches and Photos.

Our second My Tuppenceworth turned out to be another great free speech event.  We had 8 speeches on the night from 5 speakers, each followed by a lively Q&A.  Where people have shared their speeches, we have published and linked to them below.

The first half of the evening was on the topic of “How do we ensure there is never another lockdown?”.  The following people spoke on the subject:

  • Mike Swadling – speech
  • Cllr. George Pender
  • Zack Stiling – speech

Our freestyle speakers and speeches were:

Photos from the evening:

Croydon Pride 2022

By Mike Swadling

“You might wonder did we get value for money?  Well Croydon’s politicians who got to speak to the assembled crowd certainly came across as if they thought so.  As an attendee I was less convinced”

The first Pride rally in London took place on 1st July 1972.  That means this year’s Pride events are not only the first big events since 2019 and the hiatus of lockdown they also commemorate 50 years since that first U.K. event. 

Croydon has hosted its own Pride event since 2016 when the first march went to Surrey Street, and we enjoyed a Council (Taxpayer) funded (to the tune of £30,000) party.  Since then ambitions have increased, and in 2018 Croydon Pride moved to Wandle Park, where it was hosted again in 2019 at a cost of £65,000 to local taxpayers.

You might wonder did we get value for money?  Well Croydon’s politicians who got to speak to the assembled crowd certainly came across as if they thought so.  As an attendee I was less convinced my taxes subsidising the over £5 a pint drinks in a cordoned off area for Pride was the best use of funds.  Of course, a few months later Croydon issued its first of two Section 114 notices, declaring de facto bankruptcy.  Money that could have been spent on social workers protecting the most vulnerable children in the borough was instead spent subsidising my weekends entertainment.  I didn’t want you to subsidise my weekend, I would rather the council spend the money on at-risk kids.

“Libraries have gone part time, Purley Leisure Centre is still closed, hundreds of jobs were lost, cuts were made to the anti-social behaviour team, yet still Croydon in 2022 appears to have found funds to sponsor Croydon Pride”

We’ve had two years of cuts to services and council scrutiny of budgets from central government.  Libraries have gone part time, Purley Leisure Centre is still closed, hundreds of jobs were lost, cuts were made to the anti-social behaviour team, yet still Croydon in 2022 appears to have found funds to sponsor Croydon Pride.  Now you might expect at this point I would state how much taxpayer funding had gone to Croydon Pride.  Ideally, I might even be able to point you to a press release stating Croydon’s sponsorship but alas no.  Despite Croydon being listed as a sponsor no record as I write this can be found of what funds are being paid from Croydon taxpayers for the 2022 Croydon Pride.  I again attended the 2022 Croydon Pride and was more than happy that private companies choose to advertise to offset the costs of the event.  This is exactly how these events should be paid for, by the market.  If people think this is worth sponsoring, if they want to be associated with the event, let them pay for it.

“At a time when people are struggling to pay their energy bills, why should Croydon taxpayers on minimum wage be forced to subsidise anyone’s weekends entertainment?”

The average household income in Croydon is £37,000 p/a, which with an average property price to buy at £387,767 and a median rent of £1,450 pcm, it’s not clear why working class Croydonians should subsidise what is clearly a very middle class event.  At a time when people are struggling to pay their energy bills, why should Croydon taxpayers on minimum wage be forced to subsidise anyone’s weekends entertainment?  Especially when front line services are being shut down.

An afternoon spent in glorious sunshine listening to music, I very much enjoyed Croydon Pride 2022.  I hope next year I can enjoy it more, knowing the event isn’t funded by forced subsidy from taxpayers and isn’t taking much needed funds from front line services.

Once I have been able to confirm the Croydon subsidy, I will of course let you know.

Sat too long here for any good you have been doing

Image: U.K. Prime MinisterOGL 3, via Wikimedia Commons

“At the time it was often remarked he was one of only two politicians in the country who could stop traffic and would have cheering crowds wherever he went – the other being Nigel Farage”

During the 2008 London Mayoral election campaign my local paper, The Croydon Advertiser, asked a series of questions of then-Mayor Ken Livingston and Conservative candidate Boris Johnson about issues in the borough. Ken’s answers were as I recall perfectly adequate, but Boris’ I remember thinking at the time were written as if he had been a lifelong resident and his heart would always be in the town. Eight years later reading Zac Goldsmith’s answers to a similar set of questions, I thought he came over as if he had never been to the borough, had no intention of ever visiting, and the best we could hope for was he might mention the place to his staff in passing. Why am I writing about this? Well, it was clear Boris knew how to get a crowd onboard. Also, with Croydon being one of those outer London boroughs, a Conservative Mayoral candidate needs to pile on the votes to have any hope of winning. In stark contrast to the next Tory candidate, he or his team knew this interview mattered.

By the time Boris left office as Mayor, he had returned to parliament and was the leading light of the Vote Leave campaign. At the time it was often remarked he was one of only two politicians in the country who could stop traffic and would have cheering crowds wherever he went – the other being Nigel Farage. He delivered, at least in part, Brexit. The man who broke the Red Wall to win a stonking majority in the end simply ran out of steam.

“A policy started no doubt with the best intentions, stole our freedom, crushed our economy, set a precedent which future governments may reuse, was implemented by this megalomaniac who partied while the locked-down people suffered”

What will be Johnson’s legacy? My personal view is I believe him to be the worst Prime Minister in British history. Johnson was the man who placed in a form of house arrest sixty-seven million healthy people based on a computer model. The evidence from Sweden, and across the United States where similar states had radically different lockdown policies shows his withdrawal of our freedom didn’t save any lives. Indeed, the economic calamity, social impact and changes to our lifestyles may well be responsible for the ongoing increase in excess deaths. A policy started no doubt with the best intentions, stole our freedom, crushed our economy, set a precedent which future governments may reuse, was implemented by this megalomaniac who partied while the locked-down people suffered. However, I am aware, all too many were willing to accept lockdowns. So how do I believe he will be more generally viewed?

Boris campaigned in 2019 to “Get Brexit Done”. In that election he not only saw off the threat of Corbyn, but he also cemented a new Conservative coalition that broke the Red Wall and enabled us to retain our nations democratic traditions by delivering Brexit. It’s worth thinking through a counterfactual on delivering Brexit. Boris was handed Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement. He had two choices, make the best of that, or scrap it and try to get a more complete Brexit deal through a Remain voting parliament. With new parties being formed to stop Brexit, the Supreme Court and the House of Commons Speaker doing all they could to block the will of the people, Boris had little choice but to plough on with the deal he had. Once he had won that eighty-seat majority on a manifesto that included that deal, he had little choice but to deliver it. The Remain crowd arguably lost because they would accept no compromise. Their attempts to stop any form of Brexit meant we had to, at least for Great Britain, fully leave. Boris making the best of the cards he had been dealt, with help from the Brexit Party standing down candidates, took the only practical steps available to get us out of the European Union.

“The children of the middle classes are increasingly voting Labour following their university educations, the Tories need working class voters to stay focused on cultural rather than economic issues”

In winning that majority, Boris oversaw the completion of a journey that had been taking place for some years. Working class voters, who had traditionally voted Labour, moved from voting on predominantly economic grounds to more cultural and specifically patriotic grounds. Many of these voters had moved to the Conservatives, via voting UKIP or Brexit Party. With the Brexit Party stood down and UKIP imploded, Boris’ Conservatives rather than Brexit-betraying Labour became their natural home. At the time of writing, voting for the next leader is about to get underway. Whoever wins needs to retain that coalition of suburban and country middle class, and patriotic working-class voters for the Conservatives to win the next election. The children of the middle classes are increasingly voting Labour following their university educations, the Tories need working class voters to stay focused on cultural rather than economic issues. To secure this the next Prime Minister should act on the following:

  • Immediately ease the cost-of-living crisis by suspending or better still removing Net Zero targets and reducing environmental obligations and VAT on energy bills.
  • Get the economy going, by cutting taxes, speeding up the opening of free ports and opening fracking sites.
  • Stop the cross-channel traffic of illegal immigration. No government can claim competence when it can’t even defend our sea border.
  • Take a stand for free speech. Most areas of the culture war are a minefield, the Conservatives don’t want to be seen as the nasty party, but they can take a stand for free speech. In doing this they can pitch themselves as standing up for the little guy against the social media giants of Silicon Valley, which will resonate with direct speaking working class voters and older voters who grew up proud we were part of the free world.

Failure to act to retain the new coalition will not only see the Conservatives leave office at the next election it will destroy what little is left of Johnson’s legacy.

This article originally appeared in the Blacklist Press, Free Speech bulletin 18th July 2022.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Image U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia.

By: Mike Swadling

“The World Population Review list the Best Countries To Live in 2022 as Norway, Ireland, Switzerland, Iceland, Hong Kong, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Netherlands, and Denmark.  5 of them are like the United Kingdom, parliamentary constitutional monarchies”

The Jubilee proved a great opportunity for local neighbourhoods to come together in street parties, for local communities to decorate town centres and hold festivals, and for the nation to celebrate as a whole.  This was an almost unique opportunity for a nation like the United Kingdom, that doesn’t otherwise have a national day of celebration, and being formed by 4 component nations, doesn’t have many natural ways to bring our United Kingdom together except in honour of our Monarch.

The World Population Review list the Best Countries To Live in 2022 as Norway, Ireland, Switzerland, Iceland, Hong Kong, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Netherlands, and Denmark.  5 of them are like the United Kingdom, parliamentary constitutional monarchies.  The 20 Happiest Countries In The World In 2022 according to Forbes includes 10 parliamentary constitutional monarchies.   Looking at regions, Japan (monarchy) is arguably the best country to live in its region, Malaysia and Thailand (monarchies) are probably preferable to Myanmar, Vietnam, or Indonesia.  The Bahamas (monarchy) is perhaps the best of the Caribbean islands states to live in, and Belize (monarchy) the best country on the mainland of Central America.  Are you starting to see a pattern forming?  There are 208 countries in the world, just 13% (27) are parliamentary constitutional monarchies, yet they are overrepresented on every list of countries where you would want to live.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. No matter how illogical monarchies, are they clearly work.  The parliamentary Brexit wars of 2016-2019, confirmed to me the hereditary House of Lords and Judicial functions of the House of Lords worked better than what we have today.  For all its faults and failings the undemocratic house, full of hereditary peers, frankly worked quite well.  Under it we extended the franchise for men and gave women the vote.  Passed multiple Factory Acts improving working conditions, pursued laissez-faire economic policies whilst legalising trade unions, had agricultural and industrial revolutions, and built and started giving up, an empire.  We won two world wars against Germany, and arguably two more against France.  It wasn’t democratic but it was a system that, albeit sometimes rather slowly, worked.

“Yes, in a democracy we the people are the politicians’ real boss, but they only get feedback at election time.  Needing to explain themselves to the Queen once a week is a good opportunity to experience some humility”

The best argument for a monarchy is often said to be President Thatcher and President Blair, one or both of these options will appal most people.  Despite both winning multiple elections, neither can be argued to be unifying figures.  But more than a rebuff to an unpopular president, the monarchy provides several practical benefits.

  • They ensure even the most powerful politician has a boss.  Yes, in a democracy we the people are the politicians’ real boss, but they only get feedback at election time.  Needing to explain themselves to the Queen once a week is a good opportunity to experience some humility.
  • They are the embodiment of the nation as a person.  The nation is a fairly amorphous concept, but one that can come together and be represented under one figure.
  • Being apolitical, and it is critical they remain apolitical, they become a blank canvas for us to all paint our own ideas and views on.  We can all be satisfied we are fairly represented in our establishment by a royal family who’s views we can believe are as similar or not as we like to our own.
  • For a democracy to work we need opposing views, for a nation to work, we need some unity.  Most of the content on Netflix and Disney wants to impose some political views on me, woke corporations abound, and sports are full of political gesturing.  The more places in life we can find without a political slogan the better, royalty gives us that.

But don’t take my word for it.  Take the word of the 54 member states of the Commonwealth of Nations, countries that choose to belong to a body headed by the constitutional monarch of the United Kingdom.  The soft power the monarchy provides is a huge boost to British interests, economic, cultural, and political.  Is the system perfect?  No.  Is it democratic?  No.  Is it even logical?  Not at all.  Does it work?  A resounding Yes!

Source: PolizeiBerlin, Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

This article was originally published in Blacklist PressFree Speech.

The Right to Strike

Image Agitated workers face the factory owner in The Strike, painted by Robert Koehler in 1886. Source:Deutsches Historisches Museum: info pic

By Mike Swadling

“after two years of having our freedoms suspended not least our right to assemble, and with further threats to our rights to free speech coming along, it’s more important than ever to support the rights of those striking”

Over the past few weeks, we have seen industrial action or strikes hit the news again for the first time in a few years.  The RMT has been holding a series of strikes on the railways, Arriva and Stagecoach workers have strike action planned.  Despite Mayor Khan’s pledge to end London Underground strikes they are going ahead, and now teaching unions are threatening to ballot.

Strikes are never popular, but it does seem these are even less popular than most.  Perhaps this is hardly surprising as we look forward to our first free summer for a couple of years, and with people worried about rising costs, these strikes could hardly come at a worse time.  The government has come out strongly against them, as have many commentators, and it’s fair to say the zeitgeist generally has been against the strikes.

However, after two years of having our freedoms suspended not least our right to assemble, and with further threats to our rights to free speech coming along, it’s more important than ever to support the rights of those striking, even if you don’t support the reasons for the strikes and find some of the union barons unpleasant.

The craftsmen of the ancient Greeks formed loose associations.  In the Roman Empire Collegia Opificum (unions of workers) included guilds of weavers, doctors, teachers, and painters.  Guilds survived in the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire and then flourished across Europe in the later Middle Ages.  The history of guilds working in the interest of their members and to maintain standards for goods is a long one.

As a result of the industrial revolution growing numbers of workers joined unions, fears of the French Revolution spreading to these shores, led to Combination Acts in 1799 and 1800, which outlawed “combining” or organising to gain better working conditions.  In 1824 these were repealed, and Trade Unions became legal, but a new Combinations Act severely restricted their activities in 1825. 

A century and a half of Parliament overreach in restricting the rights of workers to act collectively saw the formation of the Labour Party, the General Strike, and on the other side, years of union overreach with restrictive practice, closed shops, wildcat and nakedly political strikes.  The 1980s saw an end to mass private sector union membership, and whilst the public sector has maintained large unionisation, as the chart below shows industrial disputes are at their lowest numbers in decades.

“As someone who campaigned for Brexit in part to allow us to reverse the 20 years of stagnant working-class wages, I don’t want to complain when workers collectively bargain to get a pay increase”

As someone who campaigned for Brexit in part to allow us to reverse the 20 years of stagnant working-class wages, I don’t want to complain when workers collectively bargain to get a pay increase.  We all know inflation is a massive issue right now, and public sector workers getting bumper pay increases will make that situation worse not better, however that doesn’t negate the right of unions to strike for better pay.

Mis and contradictory information abounds on the train strike, with train drivers paid an average of £59,000 but the strikers average being reportedly a more modest £33,000.  The strike is also about redundancies.  It seems to me reasonable that with passenger numbers not recovering from lockdown, staff numbers are reduced, but it’s also reasonable for unions to fight for their members.

“2 years of intermittent lockdown and school closures, often egged on by teaching unions, may find the public unsympathetic to demands for pay rises many if not most in the private sector are not getting themselves”

Teachers and health care workers are now threatening strike ballots over pay.  These strikes could possibly illicit even less public sympathy than those on the railway.  As many who have tried to book appointments with their GP will know, we now have an NHS that seems reluctant to actually see patients.  2 years of intermittent lockdown and school closures, often egged on by teaching unions, may find the public unsympathetic to demands for pay rises many if not most in the private sector are not getting themselves.  As is often the case, in the long term these strikes may hurt rather than help members.

Strikes provide one other important balance, with low unemployment and high worker mobility, strikes provide a release mechanism.  They point to a failure in relations and allow people to act without leaving their role or industry.

Libertarianism.org describes libertarian views on Labor Unions (in the US context) as “The libertarian principle on which the legitimacy of labor unions depends is freedom of association”.  It goes on to say due to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) “forbids workers individually to choose whether a union represents them in bargaining with employers about terms and conditions of employment. Instead, a union is granted monopoly bargaining privileges”, as such it considers much union activity in the US largely illegitimate. 

Closed shops are illegal in the UK, although arguably de facto closed shops (97% of teachers, and 96% of train drivers are in a union) do exist.  People do have a choice, it is much more common for people to change careers, and many sectors have large casual or agency working which often pays a premium in exchange for reduced benefits and security. 

After a few years of repressed democracy and freedom, as someone who believes in an individual’s liberty, I can’t think of a more important time to stand up for the rights of people, who I disagree with, who’s politics I may dislike, to combine and peacefully associate, as they see fit.

This article also appeared in Blacklist Press’ Free Speech for 1st August 2022.