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July 2008

There is a palpable sense that British politics is at the end of an era which began with Attlee’s victory in 1945. The post-war consensus was only partially dismantled by Mrs Thatcher. New Labour, by embracing the market, tested to destruction the old Labour shibboleth that high public expenditure was the gateway to greater equality.

The Attlee revolution entailed not simply nationalising the commanding heights of the economy but, much more sinisterly, the Government brought most of civil society – apart from the trade unions - under the whip of central government control. Thatcher’s revolution denationalised the industrial sector, blew up the City’s restrictive practices and handed power back to individual trade unionists. What the Thatcherites left untouched was central government’s iron fist, which still controls how most of the 42 per cent of national income is spent.

One effective way for Gordon Brown to revive his government would be to establish pilots so that these six proposals become stepping stones to his 2010 manifesto. Alternatively, David Cameron might nail his colours to the mast, rather than the fence.

First, individual control over public expenditure. I do not sense much support for an old-fashioned Thatcherite approach of cutting taxes and leaving individuals to sink or swim. There is clearly much auditing to do on the massive totals of public expenditure and such efforts will yield significant tax cuts. But what individuals also want is for greater control over their public expenditure. Children gain over their first 19 years child benefit and tax credits averaging a value of £100,000. Why cannot parents, if they so wish, draw-down a quarter of this tax-free sum if one of them wishes not to return to work and instead concentrate on nurturing their children?

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July 12th, 2008
2:07 PM
Shoveling seaweed against the tide. The Brits are screwed and no amount of blather can help them. After all, they did it to themselves.

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