Tuesday 10 December 2019 5:04 pm

Eight reasons the Tories are a safer bet than Labour this election

This election will define our country.

Either Britain will continue to be a liberal open democracy continuing what frankly has been a very successful recovery from a global crisis – or the UK will slip towards a highly centralised command and control model that has failed the world over. 

My last article outlined just what a risk to the prosperity “of the many” Corbyn’s policies would be.

Their prospectus is unprecedented in modern western economic history and literally would kill the golden goose. The affluent, businesses and jobs would simply leave – attracted by more stable and economically literate alternatives elsewhere in the world.

Read more: Labour’s manifesto could break the fabric of the UK economy

But it is not enough though to point out the failings of Labour’s policies. Does the Conservative party deserve another shot? 

The narrative has built up that the economy has struggled, the rich have got richer at the expense of everyone else while austerity has been enforced on the population almost as a badge of honour. This narrative is seductive – but in every respect is wrong.

First, since the global financial crisis, the UK has outperformed every major European economy. Growth has been modest, but consistent. The UK has materially outperformed the EU average including the economies of France, Germany and Spain. 

Second, unemployment is at its lowest level since 1975. Yes, 1975.

Moreover, never have more people actually been in work in the UK. Never. Some 3.5m more than in 2010 and over 1m more than on the eve of the EU referendum. This is in stark contrast to most of the EU where employment growth has struggled.

Third, these new jobs are largely good jobs and not just in the so-called gig economy. Since June 2016 250,000 more people work in healthcare and social work, 181,000 more in IT, 135,000 more in scientific and – bucking a 40-year decline – 70,000 more work in manufacturing.

Wages are growing strongly at almost twice the level of inflation. This is good news for employees but also good news for public services as tax receipts are growing strongly.

Meanwhile, by international standards the UK is actually quite an equal society. Don’t take my word for it but look at the Equality Trust data. The UK has broadly average levels of inequality by international standards.

True, we are less equal than Denmark, but have similar levels of equality as France and Germany and more equal than Australia, Spain and the US. And what is more, our society is becoming more equal not less according to The Equality Trust.

The UK’s minimum wage is the most generous in the EU and increasing rapidly. It is higher than in France and Germany, over 2x the Spanish level and 3.5 times the Polish level. Despite the rhetoric this government has supported the less well off in a material way. 

Seventh, the top one per cent pay 28 per cent of all income tax. Not enough some say but they ignore the fact that individuals and companies are mobile and can easily leave. The UK tax base is very dependent on a small group of people perhaps numbering around 300,000 – the few – supporting public spending for the many. The bottom 50% pay only 8%.  Labour will kill the golden goose and harm the very people they profess to protect.

Eighth, public spending has grown each and every year since 2010. True, the rate of growth may have been modest in some years, but we know why. The former Labour chief secretary to the Treasury, Liam Byrne, explained when he confirmed on leaving office, saying: “I’m afraid there is no money.”

Read more: Watch Boris Johnson smash through a wall in the name of Brexit

After 10 years of a careful nursing of the economy back to health there is scope to share the proceeds of growth between increased spending and stable taxes. The Conservatives have a good story to tell. Let it not be lost in the fog of division over Brexit and misleading narrative on fairness. 

Our prosperity is fragile and frankly Labour’s spending plans and reckless command and control policies will wreck it. The choice is clear: continue with a stable, open and prosperous path or frankly risk it with a virtue-signalling head rush that will end in economic ruin.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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