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Why Britain needs a Conservative government

Allister Heath
WE are now just one day away from the most important election for a generation. The country is at a crossroads: we have crawled out of recession but our prosperity faces its greatest threat since the 1970s. A discredited government and political establishment have presided over an out of control budget deficit and a bloated, dysfunctional and wasteful state. But while the majority agrees that change is required, many now seem tempted by the prospect of a hung parliament.

Yet this would be a terrible mistake; we need a strong, new government with revolutionary policies that can convince the gilt markets it is serious and reverse the errors of the past.

So who deserves to take the reins of power? City A.M. is proud to be an independent newspaper; yet that does not mean that we are free of values or devoid of a worldview. We support the City, London’s financial and business community, capitalism, economic growth, hard work, low taxes and a real free-market economy with no corporatism, bailouts or handouts. Good firms should be allowed to make (and keep) vast sums of money; bad ones should go bust. Success as well as failure should be privatised. We stand for meritocracy, where anybody, regardless of background, creed or gender, can get on in life; as well as for a truly compassionate society, whereby the better off have a duty to give the poor a helping hand and support those who cannot look after themselves.

Personal achievement, enterprise, job-creation and progress can only thrive in an environment of individual liberty, tolerance of others’ differences, economic freedom and limited government. We stand for internationalism, free trade, cultural openness and global engagement but shun unaccountable global bureaucracies and despise totalitarian movements. We like competition and open markets and dislike monopolies, cartels and state-granted privileges; we support knowledge, scholarship, sound science and evidence-based policies and reject irrationality, hysteria and obscurantism. In short, we are classical liberals in the tradition of Adam Smith, David Hume, Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek.

None of the parties in Britain truly reflect this strand of thought. All have concealed the need to cut spending. All have promoted a simplistic, vote-winning narrative of the crisis which trashes the City indiscriminately, rather than trying to understand the complex and often policy-induced causes of the recession. But reality is always imperfect; and tomorrow we all have to choose whom to entrust with our future. Given the state of the country, nobody can afford to put a cross against a non-existent “none of the above” box and omit to make a choice.

So what is on offer? The Labour party has resocialised the UK, taking public spending from 37 per cent of GDP in 1999 to a disastrous 52 per cent today on OECD stats. Labour is only ahead on banking reform, where it rejects some of the more simplistic proposals favoured by others; that, however, is not enough. The Lib Dems’ Nick Clegg is charismatic – but that is not enough either. He would devastate the City and make Britain far less attractive to entrepreneurs, especially with his capital gains tax hike. Which leaves us with the Conservative party.

The picture here is much more positive. They are the party most likely to come up with the right answers to cut the budget deficit; the most likely, over time, to shrink the size of the state and liberate the private sector; the least likely to impose yet more punitive taxes on the striving classes; the most likely to renegotiate a better deal for Britain from Brussels. Most Tory candidates support free-market reforms and have the right instincts. Their welfare reforms would begin to rebuild communities, families and civil society. The Tory education policy – which would allow the creation of new, privately run yet state funded schools – would revolutionise the prospects of millions of children, especially those from the poorest families. There will be no last minute, self-interested destruction of a first past the post voting system which has served Britain well for centuries. Given all of this, the Tories deserve the chance to become Britain’s next government and to begin the task of rebuilding the nation, downsizing the state, eliminating the deficit and liberating entrepreneurial forces. A fresh team is required to drag Britain out of the desperate mess we have allowed ourselves to fall into. We urge all our readers to vote Conservative in tomorrow’s election.

allister.heath@cityam.com