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Britain needs Macmillan, not Thatcher None of the Tory candidates inspires hope for the future

It's war. Credit: Simon Dawson/No10 Downing Street


July 13, 2022   8 mins

It is easy — and just — to mock Angela Merkel for her years of reckless misgovernance; thanks to her, Germany is now beginning to ration street lighting and heating, and rushing to install “warmth hubs” so her once-adoring voters don’t freeze to death over the winter. But we should go easy on the schadenfreude: we have all been governed by Merkels over the past four decades, and the same hard collision with reality is coming for us, too.

What is euphemistically termed the “cost of living crisis” is simply the first ripples of the historic shift of wealth and power from Europe and North America to the great Asian power blocs. The rising costs of energy and food resulting from the war in Ukraine will be dwarfed by the plummeting living standards that the great confrontation with China will usher in. The basic underpinnings of middle-class consumption in the West will go, and we will not see them again in our lifetimes. Britain is no more prepared for this cataclysmic correction of the global economy than Germany is: indeed, by many important metrics, our state capacity is already significantly worse.

As the sociologist and political theorist Paolo Gerbaudo observes, the result of the economic consensus of the past four decades is already such that “the remaining members of the middle class in the West, what we could refer to as the ‘middling class’ due to the precarity of their position, are facing the prospect of proletarianisation, or déclassement — being progressively stripped of the traditional tokens of middle-class status, such as home ownership, savings and a good salary following a good education.”

This has brought us the Right-wing populist upsurge of the past decade, and the parallel drive towards “millennial socialism” among newly-proletarianised university graduates, with all the cultural pathologies their distress carries with it. Yet in their “war on woke”, the Conservative party is campaigning against the morbid symptoms while refusing to treat the cause.

It is beyond dispiriting, then, that the candidates displaying themselves in the Conservative leadership contest not only have no meaningful solutions to offer for the hard years ahead, but do not even seem to discern the storm clouds gathering on the horizon. Instead, all the potential successors scrabbling around their podiums for Johnson’s crown have retreated to the safe space of Thatcherite dogma, promising to shrink the state just when the state’s protective hand will be needed more than ever.

How much state is even left to shrink? Try to get a GP appointment; try to get the police to attend an incident of crime, let alone provide justice. Crime is rampant, incomes are shrinking and education is worthless. Our external borders are now purely notional, and the union’s survival is doubtful. We already pay Scandinavian taxes for Mediterranean public services, and all the candidates are offering is a further diminution of state capacity. If Conservatives do not relearn how to run it, then the state will collapse, and deservedly so. As Hobbes wrote: “The obligation of subjects to the sovereign, is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth, by which he is able to protect them.” To see Britain through the hard years ahead, we need a leader able to harness the protective power of Leviathan.

Yet instead, all we have seen from the hustings are the last dying rituals of Thatcher’s cargo cult, as the candidates rattle through the empty mantras of the old religion, desperately trying to placate the unquiet ghost of a woman born a century ago. Look at Truss, literally cosplaying Thatcher in Moscow; listen to Sunak promising a “grown up conversation”, when it’s the consensus of the sensible grownups that has given us decades of stagnation and decline. Where even the supposed “last neoliberal” Emmanuel Macron has nationalised France’s energy giant EDF to see his country securely through the near future, our own Penny Mordaunt signed away 5% of Britain’s electricity capacity to avoid ruining the view from just one affluent constituent’s seaside cottage. None of these people even understands the turbulent future ahead of us, let alone presents a plan to seize it for the nation’s good. No wonder None of the Above is still the best-polling candidate: the party’s future is still imprisoned by its recent past.

But the old gods have no power in the world ahead of us. We have entered a new era, in which only the strongest and most capable states will survive. As Gerbaudo notes, “many leaders have come to see the neoliberal state as a rudderless vessel, incapable of weathering coming global storms. The issue that divides them is what new course should be set by the ship of state.” If Conservatives do not meet this challenge, then their political enemies will, using the state to cement into law all the arcane and pernicious maladies of late-stage liberalism they already display.

It didn’t have to come to this. There are other Tory traditions, other Conservative modernities which the party could draw on in an age of permanent crisis. Instead of its shrunken historical memory that goes no further back than the oldest millennials, the Conservative party has a strong culture of capable leadership fit to guide the nation through a period of crisis and decline, and to transmute the coming years of lead into gold. Instead of competing to dress up in Thatcher’s mothballed clothes, we need a candidate who can bring the vision and good governance of Britain’s postwar leadership: we need a new Harold Macmillan.

It was Macmillan, as his biographer D.R. Thorpe observes, who led Britain from the “immediate post-war world of deprivation to the years of plenty”, writing in his diary: “We must be bold; caution is no good. All our political future depends on whether we can combine prosperity with stability.” Drawing on his experience heading the Ministry of Supply during the darkest wartime years, Macmillan “understood the machinery of government and knew… how to crank it into action.” Deployed by Churchill as housing minister, with a mission to build 300,000 new houses every year, Macmillan exceeded his quota, crushing Labour in the process.

The party then understood, as it declared in its 1951 manifesto, that “Housing is the first of the social services. It is also one of the keys to increased productivity. Work, family life, health and education are all undermined by crowded houses. Therefore, a Conservative and Unionist Government will give housing a priority second only to national defence.” Back then, the central plank of Conservative messaging, shown regularly in the newspapers and the cinema newsreels, was Macmillan “handing the key to a semi-detached house to a grateful married couple with young children”. A party that stood on this pledge today, and delivered, would win a landslide: it really is that simple. Yet instead, held captive by boomer NIMBY interests, the best offer that the most ambitious Conservative contenders are making today is the weak nudge of “street votes”, the chosen gimmick of thinktankers ideologically fearful of the state’s slumbering power.

Compare this timidity and intellectual bankruptcy with the vigour and ambition of Britain’s postwar leadership. Ordered to provide homes, Macmillan built millions of them. As Thorpe records, “Macmillan reorganised his ministry on a war footing — Action This Day… Red tape was cut to the minimum and brick-making mobilised on a massive scale. Macmillan had no truck with excuses.” The result was a happy, prosperous and secure electorate, with the middle- and working-classes united in support for a Conservative government that gave them security and the opportunity for family formation, the basic building blocks of a conservative worldview.

The party, then, was led by giants: but more, it was led by conservatives, and not by Manchester Liberals in conservative clothing. Which candidate today would declare, as Anthony Eden did to a roaring crowd at the 1947 conference, that “We are not a Party of unbridled, brutal capitalism, and never have been. Although we believe in personal responsibility and personal initiative in business, we are not the political children of the ‘laissez-faire’ school. We opposed them decade after decade.” As Eden observed, “Conservatism regards the family as the basic social unit — and the sanctity of family life as vital to the health of the State.” The reverse was true then, as it is now: the state is integral to the health of the family, and without a capable state willing and able to nurture stable, prosperous and content family life, there is no future for either the party or the nation.

To achieve this requires the state’s intervention in the market, and not just fearful sacrifices to the fickle gods of free trade. As another giant of postwar Toryism, Rab Butler, declared in 1947: “the term ‘planning’ is a new word for coherent and positive policy. The conception of strong government policy in economic matters is, I believe, the very centre of the Conservative tradition. We have never been a party of laissez-faire. Conservatives were planning before the word entered the vocabulary of political jargon.”

Rooting Conservative interventionism in the deepest, paternalist origins of the Tory tradition, Butler noted that “Tories and others set about the task of dealing with the social consequences of the Industrial Revolution by calling upon the power of government to redress injustice… [The State] assumed the functions of protecting the common interest and safeguarding the interests of the weaker members of society.” In his 1971 memoirs, Butler observed that “I had derived from Bolingbroke an assurance that the majesty of the State might be used in the interests of the many, from Burke a belief in seeking patterns of improvement by balancing diverse interests, and from Disraeli an insistence that the two nations must become one.” That belief in the majesty of the state, and its unique capacity to improve the lives of the British people, is the very heart of the Tory tradition, and it is to that tradition the Conservatives must return.

On his triumphant accession to the Conservative leadership in 1957, Macmillan quoted Disraeli by saying: “We must be conservative to conserve all that is good and radical to uproot all that is bad.” Yet the party that now exists has conserved nothing of value: for it to survive now, Thatcher’s baneful legacy must finally be uprooted. Seeking to guide Britain’s threatened democracy between the twin hazards of Fascism and Communism, Macmillan — long MP for the mining town of Stockton, and the publisher of Keynes — observed, in 1936, that “Toryism has always been a form of paternal socialism”. The party of today cannot shy from this vision: better a protective father, stern in defence of his sacred duty, than Thatcher’s feckless mother, of whom Macmillan sadly observed in 1984 that “First the Georgian silver goes. And then all that nice furniture that used to be in the saloon. Then the Canalettos go…’”

The roots of Britain’s precipitous decline lie in the chronic under-investment in scientific research, state capacity and basic living standards that Thatcher’s revolution brought in tow. The supposedly drab and dreary Britain of the postwar era was far more vigorous, creative and prosperous than the ruin we currently inhabit. Instead of shrinking the state, the state’s budgets have ballooned beneath the costs of PFI contracts and outsourcing to companies parasitic on the nation’s wealth, even as its capacity has withered to almost nothing.

This isn’t just a Tory failing. As the political theorists Lee Jones and Shahar Hameiri observed in 2020, “even if the Labour Party had won the 2019 elections, it would have inherited a regulatory state apparatus that was both intensely bloated, in terms of sheer bureaucratic size and complexity, yet substantively weak, with the ostensible ‘levers of power’ in central government scarcely connected to hollowed-out front-line services. Moreover, this was a state that both main parties had a hand in creating, both under the Conservatives (1979–97, 2010–) and New Labour (1997–2010), reflecting their convergence around a neoliberal policy set.” The Thatcher revolution promised a path out of national decline, but the cure turned out far worse than the disease: the result is that my generation is poorer than my parents’, and my children will be poorer still.

Soon Britain will just be a gloomy Italy, halfway between museum and nursing home, with nothing to offer the young but emigration, helplessly buffeted by the storms ahead. For us to survive the coming trial, as dramatic and treacherous as the hard years of the Thirties, the ruling party must finally lay Thatcher’s spirit to rest, sealing her tomb beneath the foundations of a new era of security and, in time, prosperity which only a strong and capable state can nurture. The platforms Johnson’s aspiring successors have offered us so far are unfit for the pressures of today, let alone the trials of tomorrow. As the Conservative party proclaimed in 1947, “The world is topsy-turvy. Raw materials are scarce. Stormy weather must be foreseen. There must be a hand on the helm.” The era of the Thatchers, Blairs, Clintons and Merkels is already crumbling into dust: to lead us through a future whose first ripples are already causing crisis, the Tories must reclaim their strong, paternal role as the party of the state.


Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter.

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Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago

I completely agree that this witless worship at the altar of Thatcher is a ridiculous spectacle and not what Britain needs. What Britain needs is a leader with vision and imagination who can turn away from that past and find new, innovative solutions for the problems of the 21st century.
None of the candidates vying to replace Boris really fit that bill. The only one who would represent any kind of risk-taking is Kemi Badenoch. She doesn’t ape Thatcher…but she isn’t a visionary either. She’ll consider problems like an engineer – stripping away all the dross and emotion attached to an issue to get to the nitty-gritty (I was brought up by an engineer and I know ALL about this, believe me)…but I’m not sure if that would extend to being really creative and innovative in problem-solving.
Where I come unstuck with this essay is the implication that there is not enough state and that the power of Leviathan needs to be harnessed in order to confront modern problems head on. I would contend that the question is not whether there needs to be “more” or “less” state, but primarily getting the state which Britain has to function and be efficient on a basic level. Radical reformist thinking is required, as messing around with peripheral issues just isn’t going to cut the mustard. You need to take a hammer to things and have the courage to say “right chaps, this isn’t working – it’s going and this is what we’ll have instead”. The NHS would be the first on the list for that treatment.
The other reason why I am not in favour of looking to the power of the state is that I think the decline of our liberal order (in the West generally) is because people have become so mollycoddled by wealth and state generosity that they have lost all ability or inclination to be free. The foundation of any liberal society is the drive of the individual to be free of the state, take risks and innovate – bearing the consequences, but also reaping the rewards. If they don’t feel the need for that freedom anymore, (or are afraid of it – see how people loved lockdown during the pandemic) then the liberal order breaks down. As Wolfgang Münchau keeps saying, Brexit will be made or broken on the altar of innovation – and that is down to the creativity and inventiveness of individuals, not the state. The state, however, must create the right conditions for that. Right now, I think the way that that will happen is not by some new-fangled start-up lab, but by the state simply crumbling and leaving people no other choice than to find solutions for themselves. That’s possibly why drab, destroyed postwar Britain was more vigorous than the one we see today. People had very little and, in the absence of a welfare state, were left to their own devices – so they were forced to come up with solutions themselves to get by.

Last edited 2 years ago by Katharine Eyre
James 0
James 0
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

You are confusing two different things: a large, regulatory state that simultaneously treats people as charity cases and looks on them with contempt (that state as the “armed wing of Oxfam”), and a strong capacity-driven state that actually does things for people and gives people the means to do things for themselves. The former is the outcome of Thatcherism (the state actually grew larger but less effective under Thatcher) and gave us the ridiculous mantra of “Protect the NHS” and continuous lockdowns due to a lack of state capacity to deal with coronavirus. Welfarism, in a word. The latter would be something very different.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
2 years ago
Reply to  James 0

Its a bit of a stretch to blame Mrs T for the reaction to coronavirus!

James 0
James 0
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

I blamed the incapacity of the state which Thatcher (and her successors, of course) bequeathed us. So indirectly, yes, she was responsible. If the state doesn’t have the capacity to manage pandemics (the levers of power don’t connect to anything) then the only option left is to lock people in their homes and treat citizens as disease vectors.

Last edited 2 years ago by James 0
Ben 0
Ben 0
2 years ago
Reply to  James 0

The problems of the NHS are systemic. Why not move to a mixed model where people are encouraged through the tax system to provide private medical insurance for themselves instead of relying on a 1948 monolithic model?
No institution should be exempt from change and that includes the NHS. It is now absorbing dangerous amounts of public money at lower rates of productivity.
When you consider how quickly the market reacts to shortages or changes of fashion you realise how unwieldy the NHS is.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Ben 0

Yes NHS is a joke.
I tried NHS app appointment booking system and my telephone consultation was 7 weeks away.
UK is one of the main world economies, so how come you can walk into clinic in Polish provincial city and get 2 page report on your health condition (dozens of test like cholesterol, liver function etc) for 40 quid?
Private MRI scan is 100 quid, not 800 quid as in uk.
Polish wages are about 40% of uk.
This useless, Stalinist system of NHS should be dismantled.
Lets start with putting obese nurses on a diet.
I don’t see so many obese nurses in Europe.
Btw, I voted Brexit, so it is NOT rant about how brilliant EU is.

J. Hale
J. Hale
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew F

The U.S. has capitalist medicine and we also have to wait 7 weeks for an appointment.

Kate Allerton
Kate Allerton
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew F

I live in the US and we have exactly the same problems. In June I made an appointment to see a specialist… in October. Currently there is a huge back-log of non-urgent cases being dealt with. I am not saying the NHS doesn’t have problems—expensive PPPs, too many managers, ageing infrastructure, ideologically-driven priorities—but present delays may be due to a non-systemic cause.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Ben 0

We have such a system in Ireland: it works reasonably well but is far from perfect. But there is a clamour to introduce an NHS type one-system solution here. Presumably you will caution us against it?

Last edited 2 years ago by Liam O'Mahony
Bruce Crichton
Bruce Crichton
2 years ago
Reply to  James 0

No, lockdown is the result of mediaevalist ideology, not the ideas of the late Margaret Thatcher.
The cretinous response to Covid was the fault of Boris Johnson.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 years ago
Reply to  Bruce Crichton

Correct and Johnson new full well the imbecility of his action, but cravenly allowed himself to be coerced by his Deputy Fuhrer Dominic Cummings and others.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago

Correct: the GBD solution was the only good solution: isolate only the vulnerable, not in their homes but in patrolled commandeered hotels and holiday camps etc and let the young, fit, not-at-risk, students and workers in the towns and cities get on with herd immunity.. any risk consultant will tell you it was never practicable to contain the virus!

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  James 0

It was an option open to any one of her successors to better prepare for events like pandemics, and no one did. Even accepting that Tory policies under Mrs T had negative effects, asserting that it was her fault for Britain’s failures in the pandemic is far fetched.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

This seems wrong. UK had a perfectly well-developed pandemic policy, and Sweden followed it.
The UK switched away from its own policy so it could be part of the stampeding herd orchestrated by the WHO and the Chinese Communist Party.
Why?

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

lack of leadership backbone – look at the flak the swedes had to face down ! but then again they have a culture of personal responsibility unlike most other ‘proletariates ‘ who will bleat to their ‘govt’ whenever things get a little tough…

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

Qui bono? Who gained in wealth from the policies implemented? Follow the money and the question is answered…

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  James 0

You forget the Great Barrington Declaration.. the real solution to the pandemic..

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  James 0

Has anyone actually experienced ‘the state’ in France, Belgium or other similar countries? You often wait and are treated with utter disdain by their functionaries’ convenience. Thatcher did actually instigate a big improvement in the customer policies of many state and local government departments. Not a big or radical enough change, but not nugatory either.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Geraldine Gilmour
Geraldine Gilmour
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Well, I’ve experienced the health system in France, and it is excellent. And free at the point of use for all on low income, while absolutely affordable for those in paid employment.
Unlike the USA.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

It’s hardly ridiculous to blame the foundation contractor when the building collapses is it?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  James 0

The “ridiculous mantra of Protect the NHS”? I think you will find a hundred more ridiculous things in the UK before you get to the NHS.. or am I missing something?

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I agree with your remarks about Kemi Badenoch, whose campaign launch speech did reject the excessive and stifling ‘mollycoddling’ provided by the current welfare state in favour of a state that targets its activities, and our money, at things that are really important, and strips out the wasteful nonsense. But returning to more individual responsibility in areas like health and social care – things that did not weigh so heavily on Macmillan’s government- will be painful. We need someone who can tell that truth to a public used to living in an unaffordable fantasy world – and still get elected! Ay, there’s the rub….

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

OMG.. a deregulated free for all then? ..and devil take the hindmost! Wasn’t that the Thatcher model? If you’re correct, and many clearly think you are, then the candidates promoting Thatcherite policies are spot on.. Can’t see it myself but good luck with it (?)..

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

For a vast swathe of politicians, the commentariat and it seems even it seems Aris Rounissos – and indeed the general public – more and more public spending is the only answer given to every problem. Apparently even doctors now don’t get paid enough! We don’t live in anything like a small ‘night watchman’ type state. Despite the spending, the performance of much of the government is mediocre by any measure. There is an embarrassing contrast to so many private sector organisations, such as Amazon. No one compels us to use the latter’s services, but we choose to.

It is actually possible to have a smaller but vastly more effective state than we have in the UK and other western countries Look to Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. I don’t believe the current trajectory is sustainable – Merkel actually once pointed out that 50 % of the world’s welfare spending took place in Europe.

Far from the fantasies to some extent promoted by this article, a painful retrenchment will happen, whoever is is in government..

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
2 years ago

This ridiculous plea for a return to the Paternalistic Socialism of Macmillan is dotty – and dangerously so – e.g. in its plea to return to the principles of men like Eden. Good grief.

We need a much smaller state sharply focussed on delivering that which only the state can do – defence, maintaining rule of law, ensuring decent regulation of public services and providing the fiscal conditions for a sustainable economy which promotes equality of opportunity ( not ridiculously pursuing equality of outcomes) – and certainly not intervening in every aspect of our lives in an increasingly ineffective manner – like some grotesque “Macmillan Nanny”. For goodness sake, set people free to prosper as responsible individuals in a freedom loving country – don’t depersonalise and enslave them under the tyrannical rule of any type of Socialism.

Last edited 2 years ago by Malcolm Webb
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

So how would you fix the housing crisis for the young, or increase their stagnant wages or the nations poor productivity?
For the last 40 years we’ve taken a hands off approach to running the economy in the belief that the market always knows best, yet millennials are now the first generation on record to be poorer than the one that preceded them

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Markets don’t “know” anything. Markets simply are. Remove the policy makers who claim to “know” and prosperity will result, as it always does.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

An incredibly lazy naive answer in my opinion, that would lead us back to the days of the Victorian workhouses

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

For a society without workhouses, look at the street poverty in California or the third world. It is the Christian answer:
“If any man will not work, neither let him eat.”

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

Really: I don’t recall Christ saying that? I know the NT well but that phrase escaped me. Can you enlighten me?

Jeremy Sansom
Jeremy Sansom
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Paul, not Jesus: 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Okay, how about this: live within your means and work to grow assets, save your money, make realistic financial decisions, and don’t vote for profligate stealing prats. Even Dickens, whose idiot father repeatedly embarrassed his family by not following the above-mentioned prescription, would likely recognize his own folly (although he doesn’t strike me as a mend-ways kinda guy). Or, just blame The System for human failure. Lots of money in that, as Dickens discovered . . .

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago

Harshly put but not without merit I believe. Has anyone estimated the money spent on fashion clothing, hairdos, jewellery, facials, facelifts, make-up etc etc. all clearly unnecessary. Add in tobacco and alcohol, gambing and other manner of wasteful living. I’d be intrigued to know the figures. If course a little of all of the above is okay but I suspect the amounts are prodigious. Anyone know?

Jane Hewland
Jane Hewland
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Tax on foreign ownership of property, plus tax on profits of resale. Reform of tenure so anyone buying a home actually does own that home. Abolish leasehold. Reintroduction of proper building inspection with criminal sanctions for those who fail to build or maintain safely. Imaginative redevelopment of unused commercial buildings for residential use, especially for key workers. (There will be plenty of unused commercial space!) Less concentration on flats which aren’t selling. More on family homes.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Jane Hewland

So in other words, a more powerful state with the means to direct investment to where it’s most needed, as the article suggests?

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I don’t know how you can say we have taken a hands off approach to running the economy. The economy is submerged in state interventions of one sort or another at every turn.
The manager of the small enterprise one of my son’s works for limits her hours so as not to lose benefits by working longer hours. How does that help productivity.
There are endless incentives towards idleness rather than productivity. The idea that the economy is a free for all example of capitalism red in tooth and claw is pure fantasy. I don’t argue that all such regulations are unnecessary but many could be removed beneficially except for the bureaucratic machinery that is the source of income and power for too many.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

To build houses, there is a whole tangle of vested interest to unravel.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Story

All the people with a foot on the property ladder, all the NIMBYs and those who depend on them for their votes.
Right up to the moment where the economy collapses and the renters come after them with vengeance in their hearts.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

I posted this before on this and other forums.
All the current properties owners like me should consider that capitalist system without enough people having chance to build capital (home for most people) will fail, long term.
When majority of voters are not home owners, expect policies which will take ours wealth away.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Unfortunately, I think you may be on to something. Certain political factions here in the States are harping on about how the very notion of private property is racist.

Waterloo Wailer
Waterloo Wailer
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Building a house in Britain is one of the most heavily government and community regulated activities you can do. Every ten years or so from the Housing and Town Planning Act 1909 there have been ever more restrictive government policies controlling where and how you can build, with what materials, aspect, elevation and design ‘in keeping’, whatever that means. You can’t argue that a hands-off approach has caused the housing problems for young people. I’d say the absolutely opposite. There are not enough houses and successive governments for over 100 years have been making it ever more difficult and more costly to build. So much so the massive endeavour can only really be successful if done by massive house building conglomerates. Get the government out of the picture by enacting a simple framework for planning applications, and then let the market choose what they want. Deregulated, there would be a large uptick in entrepreneurial house building, and people building themselves homes like many other places around the world. It would be wonderful.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You refer to there being a “housing crisis”. In fact Statista shows the UK as being roughly in the middle when the cost of housing compared to income is compared across Europe.

Wages have been stagnant because our productivity has not kept pace. The reasons for this are complex and include the fact that wages have been held back in many industries because immigrants have been prepared to accept lower wages as can be seen by the wage pressures imposed when a number of foreign workers returned home following Brexit. Supply and demand tend to determine the price of things and people subject, of course, to political interference of various sorts that tend to drive prices up as a by-product.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

There would be no housing crisis without mass immigration from 3rd world.
We build about 150k houses a year, but inflows are 300k plus a year.
Yes, people already in nice houses like me in London are beneficiary of rising prices.
I have no kids, but unless country considers future of younger generation we are doomed.
Problem with author argument is that the main reason for rising poverty in the West is globalisation.
It was never in interest of 90% of West population to agree to it.
We were sold the pup by Western leaders, so them and their billionaire enablers are even richer.
His argument against Maggie is idiotic.
Her policies were response to extreme inflation and social unrest of the 70s.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

But we don’t let the market get on with it; government interferes endlessly and especially in housing. MacMillan built all those house partially by throwing money at it (hence his high taxation), and partially by not having to cope with the restrictive planning system that we are pulling tight round our own throats.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Quite simply: the young have been robbed of a future by my own generation who smugly tell them to ‘suceed’ just as we did. I bought my 3B+garage home for 3 times my poor salary: ‘had it fully furnished by the time I returned from my honeymoon in the Med: drove a car and had two children by the time I was 24.. on a poor salary! How: the world was a beneficent, moral, affordable place then. It isn’t now.. that’s the truth of it!

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

No, at least regarding housing, we strongly dissuade housing development because middle class people on the whole don’t want it near them and the Tory Party is in hoc to this vote. People have a right to their own properties, and some basic environmental standards where they live, they should have no ability to block development on someone else’s land

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Sorry to be so slow to respond. In my view we have had anything but a hands off approach – save maybe for a brief period in Thatcher’s term in office. The rest has been a constant diet of politicians playing to pressure groups and trying to keep themselves in power by pretending to voters that they ( or rather the State) can fix all our problems. Create them it certainly can but it isn’t so good at then fixing them. So today, after all the years of interventions from Major right through to Johnson, we have record levels of taxation, record levels of debt, declining standards of performance in almost every State owned or controlled enterprise, a government induced energy crisis, uncontrolled inflation, record numbers of people living on benefit, stagnant level of productivity , an undersized defence force, an overstretched, under resourced and underpaid NHS, chronically under resourced retirement provision ( social and pension) , a police force with a laughably low detection rate etc etc ( I could go on for a long time citing the Government failures) and yet very many people still cling to the somewhat curious view that the State can and should be trusted to everything for us and that we want our clearly hapless and clueless political class to take on yet more central control, direction and power. The evidence before us, as I see it, indicates that quite the opposite is required.

However,I am an old man, so probably best that I just tend to my garden and keep my views to myself lest I offend others who think differently. But do I honestly believe that the current or indeed any crop of politicians has the knowledge, understanding and ability to micro manage the whole or any significant parts of the economy of a developed nation such as ours? Absolutely not. Equally do I believe that my sons and daughters gave the right to expect to be better off than me and my generation? Again absolutely not. Of course they could be better off – indeed much better off – but they will have to work for that – and any politician who pretends otherwise is just another one who, if given power, will ensure it won’t be the case.

Neil Davidson
Neil Davidson
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It’s government policy, in the form of planning restrictions, that has caused the housing crisis. It would be solved with amazing rapidity if any land could be used to build on — admittedly at a high aesthetic cost!

James 0
James 0
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

So a programme of house-building is interfering in people’s lives? Most would see it as giving people the chance to have a decent life.

David Barnett
David Barnett
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

Macmillan spelt his name with only one upper case M.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
2 years ago
Reply to  David Barnett

Thank you David. I have corrected the error.

J. Hale
J. Hale
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

“delivering that which only the state can do – defence, maintaining rule of law, ensuring decent regulation.” I see the NHS didn’t make your list.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

I assume then that you would remove all planning regulations? That would solve the housing crisis. We could manage without a bit of farm land, as travellers occasionally show us.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

..and for those incapable of all that ingenious get up and go? A plane to Rwanda presumably?

Vyomesh Thanki
Vyomesh Thanki
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

It’s not the size of the state that matters but what it does and achieves. In Singapore (far from perfect) the state is actively involved and often achieves great outcomes. See this: ‘Here’s what it would really mean if Britain was like Singapore. The British right talks up the Singapore model, but it doesn’t quite get it.’ https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2017/02/heres-what-it-would-really-mean-if-britain-was-singapore
Also see this: ‘Small state fetishists miss the big picture’ https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/a2dd8e40-05ee-11ed-a986-fc91b4ad48f0?shareToken=525d9da4cc46cfab7c7d7ccc184961eb

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
2 years ago

EDF was already 84% state owned. Macron had to fully nationalise it because the government had effectively forced it in to bankruptcy by forcing it to sell power at below market prices in the run up to presidential and legislative elections this year. We’ll see what that does to willingness to invest in French energy infrastructure in the years ahead.
The author should try living in a 1950s council estate before singing the praises of Macmillan, Eden and Rab Butler. Whatever Britain’s problems, “paternal socialism”, which was tested to destruction in the post War era, is not the solution. There is plenty of state to shrink: public spending as a proportion of GDP is vastly higher in the UK than in most of Asia. The issue is a state which does too much, badly. This include, for example, regulating the number of medical places in universities, and regulating the daily lives of its people, and of its businesses, far too intrusively and bureaucratically.

Last edited 2 years ago by Stephen Walsh
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

“The author should try living in a 1950s council estate before singing the praises of Macmillan, Eden and Rab Butler”

You should have tried living in the 1930’s slums that preceded them before criticising the council estates that followed. Just because they’ve fallen into disrepair 70 years down the track doesn’t mean they weren’t a vast improvement on what came before

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

70 years later?
They had fallen into disrepair by the 1970s.

Dan Croitoru
Dan Croitoru
2 years ago

He sucks at simple math. It’s because of the boomers -)

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

All of Europe engaged in slum and bomb damage clearance post War. Very few did to their cities what Britain did.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Many of the ‘slums’ that escaped clearance are now gentrified and highly desirable places in which to live. The first property I bought had been condemned by the local authority for want of indoor sanitation. It was done up and is now worth £700k (sadly I’m no longer the owner). By contrast, many of the estates cheaply run up in Macmillan’s time were falling apart within 25 years.
I’ll also never forgive Macmillan for authorising the demolition of the Euston Arch.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew D
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I think you might look at Hany Park which featured in the 1930 film Love on the Dole. It was demolished and redeveloped in the 1960s at great expense and now lies abandoned. You can see it on a video tour at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twnPosztKys
From what I can see the housing does not look any worse than much of the housing you see in modern cities. maybe it was the people

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago

We can all cherry pick examples to suit our arguments. How about the inner city slums of Glasgow or many other major cities?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

That was not my point and I am not cherry picking examples.
Have you ever wondered why labour area remain poor?

Jim Jam
Jim Jam
2 years ago

Thanks very much. I woke up today in an unusually good mood, and then I read this article.

Soon Britain will just be a gloomy Italy, halfway between museum and nursing home, with nothing to offer the young but emigration

Even if this does end up being the cases, this whiney deafeatism is hardly going going to help matters is it?

‘Yeah man we’re all just fucked, aren’t we’

Brilliant.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 years ago
Reply to  Jim Jam

.. but now Britain has way better chefs and food than Italy.. I am half Italian and still go there frequently: more seriously, Italy and its corruption and state controls, plus a late adoption of woke is in a far worse state, but its populus is far better educated than ours

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
2 years ago

I would say most of Europe had better education than us. And that shows in the paucity of intellect of the contenders.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago

I think education of general population is overrated.
Both UK and USA have world class universities.
So innovation is happening there.
How many countries in Europe have really great universities?
Lets not get me started about EU politicians constantly complaining about USA while hiding behind USA military.
I think EU (especially Germany and France) would benefit from few years of Russia occupation.
Can Putin send some looters, rapists and murderers down, now unused, Nord Stream pipe?

Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago
Reply to  Jim Jam

Fortunately the author is completely wrong.
There are certainly challenges ahead. But I’d far rather be in Britain than almost any other European country.

Jake Aslam
Jake Aslam
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

Almost?

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Jim Jam

You forget to mention that Italy is part of amazing EU and Euro zone.
Like Greece, Spain and Portugal.
So problem is not just UK.
It is moronic bureaucracy of EU which means that apart from SAP no major global business was created there in the last 30 years.

Kerie Receveur
Kerie Receveur
2 years ago

Utter baloney. The last thing we need is more damned state interference in every aspect of our lives. It’s intolerable as it is.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Kerie Receveur

Because leaving everything to “the market” is working wonders isn’t it?
We have record rents and house prices, full time workers in need of government assistance simply to keep a roof over their head, inequality has reached record levels, whilst wages and productivity have stagnated.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

There is no way that anything has been left to the market.
It can be said with a lot of justification that one of the main reasons why we are in the mess we are in is the dead hand of the state the not only refuses to die but insist on extending its tentacles ever more deeply into every aspect of our lives.
Can you imagine if the state ran food distribution along the lines of our wonderful NHS. The sector would employ 3 times as many people as it dos currently and a loaf, if you could find one, would be £10 and the idiot would all be saying that the British food industry is the envy of the world.

Bruce Crichton
Bruce Crichton
2 years ago

Correct.

Bruce Crichton
Bruce Crichton
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Because leaving everything to “the market” is working wonders isn’t it?” – it isn’t being left to the market so your question is intergalactically stupid.

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

A very fine article, imo. Somber but realistic.
For us to survive the coming trial, as dramatic and treacherous as the hard years of the Thirties,…
I hope the author is wrong but I suspect not. If such hard times come to the UK they will come to the rest of the West too. It’s not so much a nasty recession I fear as what comes next. Who has a credible vision for the economic future of the West?

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Seconded. I am not optimistic, but would be very happy to be surprised: in the absence of strong leadership and a coherent sense of community and purpose, we really are cactus.

I also appreciated Mr Hindman’s referencing of Dwight Eisenhower, someone I have long admired. I was once told he kept a plaque on his desk, bearing the words “The buck stops here”. Now that’s the type of person that we need.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Parker

“absence of strong leadership and a coherent sense of community and purpose” Yes, as I read Aris’ piece I was thinking that it will take more than a leader.

WW2 helped foster a sense of community and purpose, which lingered a while, but since then we’ve become so individualistic and materialistic – the corporate world helped create never-ending needs that it could immediately satisfy, and that’s where we are, wanting our own immediate gratification of short-term trivial desires. Maybe a disaster will produce the leader, but I can’t see any person alone being able to turn the thing around.

Bruce Crichton
Bruce Crichton
2 years ago

What communist balderdash and it’s communism that is impoverishing the country, it’s bipartisan.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Parker

“in the absence of strong leadership and a coherent sense of community and purpose, we really are cactus”

I’d just like to point out that these are left-wing goals, not ‘conservative’ ones’. I’m also getting rather irritated by the frequent support given to certain Tory Leadership contestants on the ground that they are of ‘military’ background. In my view this is the prime reason for rejecting them. It is simply not true that a Government in peacetime has to ‘run the country’ and that this requires ‘competent’ men (these types are always men) who will take harsh decisions etc.etc. As my mother often said ‘Retired generals should be taken out and shot’.
What we need is to try and rebuild the UK as the kind of ‘civil association’ (to use the words of Michael Oakeshott in his masterly essay ‘The Character of a Modern European State’) which was previously in existence, but adapted to todays’ changing conditions. We are not ‘at war’ but I have a melancholy suspicion that several Tory candidates for PM would rather like us to be.

Last edited 2 years ago by Arnold Grutt
Mary Bruels
Mary Bruels
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Parker

It was Harry Truman, the haberdasher from Missouri, who had that sign on his presidential desk. Eisenhower was responsible for the Marshall Plan which saved Europe from being overrun by communists.

Sam Sky
Sam Sky
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

The ‘hard Thirties’ only really applied in the 19th century industries of the North. The Midland and South actually did rather well in that decade on a boom of new industries like aviation and car manufacturing, as well as a spree of house building.

Last edited 1 year ago by Sam Sky
Nick O'Connor
Nick O'Connor
2 years ago

Frustrating to see statist 50s Toryism glorified when twenty years before Macmillan more homes of far higher quality were being built with much less state control. You must have seen the graphs – Macmillanism was part of the decline, not a solution to it

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
2 years ago
Reply to  Nick O'Connor

The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 put a good socialist stop to all that free-market house building of the thirties.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
2 years ago

I am not that familiar with British political history, but this article and the sentiment behind it reminds me of another statesman, American President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was a man of principle who knew what to conserve and when to mobilize government power to improve the country. The interstate highway system was one of the crowing achievements of his administration. When he set red lines the Soviets backed down immediately because they knew he meant business. At the same time he did not reflexively oppose the Soviet Union every opportunity available, only when it was necessary to do so. Eisenhower even oversaw the United States around the same time as Macmillan. Finally, his farewell speech and the foresight within is even more relevant today. If you have not heard it, I would seriously recommend you listen to it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyBNmecVtdU

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt Hindman
Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

I agree about his farewell address. If he had lived to see how technology has advanced I often wonder what he would say about today. Perhaps I told you so.

Last edited 2 years ago by Alan Thorpe
Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago

A great summary of post-war UK history – if you completely ignore the 1970s.

Last edited 2 years ago by nadnadnerb
Mark Walton
Mark Walton
2 years ago

Totally agree and for me puts the plastic Chancellor out of the running! The mediocrity of the rest of the candidates scares me.
The party just dumped its best candidate, it sadly lost the team strategist after DC left, his biggest error was to dump the efficient new way and go back to failed government. Great leaders have always had great people around them, BJ’s problem was to try and go it alone, obviously listening too close to home. The party machine failed him, the big government system must change. What service has the opposition done for the improvement of policy making of the country in decades? Just a continual mud slinging muppet show is all we have seen.
I agree with the author in many respects the Country is being failed by lack of basic morality, poor public service, failed economics, social policy and lack of self confidence. I hope our instincts are wrong and the leaders can find a way to raise our once great nation back to the standing it once deserved. We have the major advantage of now being able to make changes impossible whilst shackled to the EU.

Bob Sleigh
Bob Sleigh
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Walton

The mediocrity of the rest of the candidates scares me.

The only one who impresses me in any way is Kemi Badenoch. The rest are useless, especially Sunak, who would lead the Tories to a rout at the next election.

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
2 years ago
Reply to  Bob Sleigh

I agree with you about Kemi Badenoch. As I’ve said elsewhere here, I found her campaign launch speech impressive: clearsighted, articulate and no-nonsense. I think she benefits from coming from outside the UK glasshouse, while obviously appreciating the country’s past and potential. One worries about whether her much-needed reforming zeal would survive the realities of life with the top civil servants, and her more timorous, short-termist colleagues.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Tonkyn

Please guys and gals.
All this support for Kemi is based on what?
Some decent speeches?
I am sure many people who comment here and other forums could do the same.
She has no real top level experience in anything.
She would struggle to get job at senior level of FTSE 250 company, never mind CEO position.
If Conservatives win next election and she gains cabinet expertise, then she could run for leader in 6 to 10 years time.
I accept that people with experience, like May, Boris and Biden failed.
But then Obama, Clinton, Blair and Bush jnr can hardly be called successful?
At least on international arena.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Walton

Maybe DC was great in managing Brexit campaign and subsequent election but, based on sources I red, it was him who pushed Johnson into lockdown response to covid instead of following Sweden model.
Then he ignored his own policy by his travel to Durham.
I would assume that someone of his position signed Official Secrets Act.
So his constant criticism of Johnson after he was sacked, using information he gained during government employment, is not just dishonest but probably criminal?

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
2 years ago

What a load of left wing mumbo jumbo…

How much state is even left to shrink? Try to get a GP appointment

That’s the problem with the state providing everything – they can’t do it well and frequently should not even try.
You can easily get a private GP appointment – at relatively short notice, 30 minutes with the doctor, referral to a consultant who can see you this week not in 2 years time ….
Or you can accept the thin gruel on offer from the state.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

I had private health insurance before my retirement and it was great, as you said.
Problem is that is so expensive.
Especially diagnostics.
Why is privite MRI scan 800 quid in UK and 100 quid in Poland?
Polish wages are about 40% of uk and outside South East property prices are not different enough to justify the ratio.
I accept that if we had national top up insurance to get better health care (my private insurance was 800 quid per year for me and my partner (60s and 50s cohort) it might work but the NHS is “envy of the 3rd world” lefties on bbc etc would never allow it (while going private anyway).
Problem is though that it is not in the interest of NHS consultants to have successful NHS.
If you could have NHS appointment within few weeks how many people would pay for private (as I was told by, retired, NHS consultant while skiing in Val)

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago

“under-investment in scientific research, state capacity and basic living standards that Thatcher’s revolution brought in ”
In reality, the 1980s Britain replaced dying, uncompetitive and under invested state run dinosaurs with well invested IT and Pharma research firms, vastly improved living standards and transformed Britain’s rail and power infrastructure. Even a first gen immigrant like me, with limited knowledge of politics, knows that, sees data to support that.

But reality is a far right construct….

Will Will
Will Will
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Well said.

David Barnett
David Barnett
2 years ago

Maybe Harold Macmillan was right for his time and Margaret Thatcher for hers. It is possible that neither has much to offer our present leaders.

Ben 0
Ben 0
2 years ago

The author conveniently omits what came immediately after Macmillan. Another Harold – Wilson and fifteen years of industrial and economic decline culminating in the Winter of Discontent. I wonder what you would have written in your column in January 1979 Aris?

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago

This guy admits in his first few paragraphs that the ruinous machinations of the left have brought us all low, but somehow it’s the “conservatives’ war on woke” that will put the coffin in the grave unless they grow up and be daddy. But wait! We’re told repeatedly that paternalism is the root of all evil by the same people who deny the existence of women. Honestly, why bother even trying to keep up with this shite?

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
2 years ago

MacMillan had an advantage denied to Johnson’s successor: a civil service that had worked through the war and learned how to improvise and make the best of the resources available. Today we have senior civil servants who feel that they have the right to bankers’ salaries for passing on EU directives and the suggestions from corporate lobbyists.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
2 years ago

I couldn’t disagree more with this analysis, the decline of the UK goes hand in hand with the increased size of the State & its huge interference in our lives and the economy.
Thatcher’s revolution wasn’t continued it was reversed, first by John Major and then every Govt since.
We need to shrink the state and reduce taxation leaving the people through private enterprise to run this country.
A State of half the size or less than today’s must change the structure of our economy to improve the lives of its people without the encumbrance of our Politician’s trying to run Health, Education et al … they really are not very good at it .. in fact they are really very bad at it!
When I listen to Kemi Badenoch it gives me hope and optimism that there are those in politics that are advocating a small state & jettisoning the nonsense of woke govts.
People don’t want paternalism Aris, they want the freedom to pursue their own lives and keep more of their own money!

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
2 years ago

No, no, no..as Thatcher would say. We need more choice to improve schools and the Health system. Give out vouchers, let in more private providers for the NHS and sack 100s of managers

Last edited 2 years ago by Stephanie Surface
Simon Tavanyar
Simon Tavanyar
2 years ago

10 times more people die of cold than of heat. Climate change is not the enemy of progress. So
Deregulate. Help farmers produce lots of value food. Help companies produce lots of cheap energy. Loosen up the green belt for a while. Simplify laws.
Education? Only subsidize college students for math, medicine, hard sciences, and subsidize vocational schools. Society needs engineers and doctors.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
2 years ago

While being temperamentally a small c conservative, I have never voted for the Conservative party because it has always seemed more destructive than conservative. I would vote for any party that truly intended to overhaul our rotten, out of date political system irrespective of political bent.
Reading Paul Kingsnorth makes me worry about more basic stuff. I work in a shop and I wonder often when or if the material basis of our civilisation will simply cease to be because their is nothing left to make anything out of as it is all in landfill. I sometimes despair for my children’s future, because it may be one where there isn’t anywhere left worth emigrating to.

Joseph Clemmow
Joseph Clemmow
2 years ago

No disrespect Aris, but MacMillan was a Prime Minister who oversaw Stagflation and Strikes during his term, did nothing to combat much of the countries deep underlying economic problems, and then dumped the whole putrid mess in the lap of his successor Harold Wilson. We risk doing the same again in 2024

Ruud van Man
Ruud van Man
2 years ago

Mr Roussinos states: “The Thatcher revolution promised a path out of national decline, but the cure turned out far worse than the disease: the result is that my generation is poorer than my parents’, and my children will be poorer still.” Is he suggesting that if we had stuck with Jim Callaghan things would be much better now? Whilst Thatcher was far from perfect, I can’t help but feel she left the UK in much better shape than she found it. And anyway, she left power in 1990 so there has been ample opportunity for her successors to improve things. We should lay the blame at their doors.
By the by, I think Macmillan acted more like a social democrat than a conservative a lot of the time but then again, the period after WW2 was very unusual and even if our immediate future is a bleak as Mr Roussinos claims, it is still not like the post war period and we should be careful of imitating solutions from that time.

Surrey Garland
Surrey Garland
2 years ago

‘you pull on the levers but nothing happens’ – change ‘levers’ for ‘leaders’ and it still works
dysfunction seems to be in charge everywhere except possibly Tesco

Tom Brook
Tom Brook
2 years ago

Ludicrous, as usual, from Aris. Badenoch is exactly what the country needs.

Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago

This article is littered with errors.
The one good part is the recognition that the “cost of living crisis” is in reality the end of a 25 year free ride on the one off benefits of globalisation. It’s now payback time.
That and the recognition that house prices are the biggest problem this country now has as young people have nothing to aspire to.
Trying to pin the blame for 30 years of poor decisions since she left office on Thatcher is ludicrous. Like so many commentators, the author is clearly blinded by some idealogical hatred of Thatcher. That or just plain ignorace. Or both.
Margaret Thatcher had nothing to do with PFI. That’s Major, Blair and Brown. She didn’t do “third way” nonsense like this.
The reason why we are no longer competitive with leading Asian economies is precisely our bloated and inefiicient state – in particular the non-contributory welfare state. That and the breakdown of families and abandonment of individual responsibility. All the Asians (Koreans, Singaporeans, Taiwanese, etc) have done is copy the best attributes of Western culture, while we have abandoned them and gone soft. David Cameron recognised exactly what the Asian challenge was. What he got in response was a load of nonsense about a “race to the bottom”. Sadly, the public are still not ready to hear the truth.
The reason we have “Mediterranean services with Scandinavian taxes” is the appallingly poor management and productivity of state run services. Something Margaret Thatcher recognised and took action on.
The reason Macron nationalised EDF is not energy security. It is the only way to keep this company alive. It has massive debts and horrendous problems trying to deliver new nuclear power stations (check out why Flamanville still isn’t running). This is *definitely not* a success story for France. We should design and build our own nuclear stations – as we used to.

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago

But even the most inept candidate for a Conservative PM, whether they ‘worship’ Thatcher or not, has the advantage of not being from the Labour party. Perhaps the ‘Thatcher waving’ is to underline the difference between the Parties? It’s thin enough at the moment for confusion to creep in.
I’d say the equivalent ‘Blair waving’ is unlikely, but then modern politics is in a weird place.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
2 years ago

The state is failing in everything it tries to do – what we need is more state.
Go figure.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
2 years ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

Not difficult … you are a socialist?

Will Will
Will Will
2 years ago

Possibly the worst piece I have paid for on this site.

Ludwig van Earwig
Ludwig van Earwig
2 years ago

A brilliant and timely article. But are there any latter-day MacMillans in the current Tory lineup?

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
2 years ago

Latter-day MacMillan’s are the last thing we need in UK politics … his slogan in 1959 was ‘most people have never had it so good’.
But in 1961 his government imposed an unpopular wage freeze and other measures to curb rising inflation.
By 1963 he had resigned in the wake of the Profumo scandal.
He was in truth a disaster!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 years ago

He even ‘persuaded’ Denning to suppress the juicer parts of his ‘report’, particularly the sordid facts about the private life of the pervert known as Ernest Marples Esq. MP.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago

Was Ernest dad of Trump wife?
I am surprised Democrats didn’t use it in their impeachment proceedings.

D Oliver
D Oliver
2 years ago

Good analysis of the past but I am not quite sure how Aris is so confident in the quality of his crystal ball. He may be correct but to write of inevitably falling living standards as a certainty is daft.

Nick O'Connor
Nick O'Connor
2 years ago

Hobbes’ preferred state was almost absurdly limited by modern standards when it came to controlling what people could do with their own money and property (in general, with exceptions, it’s complicated, etc.). Leviathan is big because it’s made up of lots of people, not big because it tries to micromanage their lives.

If you want a state with the protective power of Leviathan you want a state that executes traitors, not a state that tells people where and when to build houses.

I realise this is a bit actually Frankenstein wasn’t the name of the monster, but I think it does have some relevance.

It’s a bad thing that Macmillan was able to reach an arbitrary target of 300,000 homes a year, for one year only, for political purposes. We’d have more housing now if it had been impossible for him to do so. A state that can create an artificial housing spike has too much control.

Last edited 2 years ago by Nick O'Connor
BN2020
BN2020
2 years ago

I do not understand logic author is imposing on us by going after Merkel for allowing Germany to have cheap energy source for 4 decades and in same time supporting German industry growing and becoming stronger and stronger. She is for certain not to be blamed for current situation because of making Germany dependent on cheap Russian gas but she is guilty for this situation for not implementing Minsk 2 agreement she willingly signed. If she managed to implement it we would not be talking about this nowadays. History did not start on 24.February this year. It started much earlier and we do not have any right to behave differently. We are calling Russians enemies for last 20 years, blaming them for many different things and now they decided to say – Right you call us a name then we will behave like that – so we are from now on your enemy!!! (and now we do not like it???) Also one more thing, I really do not understand Russians – If I was them, for EVERY million $ sent to Ukraine I would cut down adequate cubic meter of gas delivered. Simple. Let us wait for winter. Good luck to all.
BJ – well until Britain does not find someone as Orban or I dare to say Putin, you are going to fall deeper and deeper. US will not be there to help and idiotic politicians will continuously try to divert focus to foreign policy. Now it is Ukraine, tomorrow it will be China and Pacific. In mean time, homeland will decay and most of GDP will come from financial sector manipulations and games. Take a look how many gold has been repatriated from London and is still being retrieved. See Pound falling vs Dollar but also vs CHF and some other competing currencies. It is all signaling bad economic situation for UK and your politicians are behaving like drunk billionaires giving away money from Scottish education and health funds and foolish moves like that. Focus on domestic problems is must for next PM of UK or future will be grim.
Boris

Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
2 years ago
Reply to  BN2020

“I do not understand logic author is imposing on us by going after Merkel for allowing Germany to have cheap energy source for 4 decades”
Nonsense. Here drive for the stupidity of “renewables” has left Germany with the highest energy prices in Europe apart maybe from the Danes.
Utter drivel.
Have some facts.

https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=Electricity_price_statistics#Electricity_prices_for_household_consumers

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  BN2020

As you said history did not start on 24th of October.
Russian genocidal Imperialism is at least 400 years old.
Does not matter whether it is Tsarism, Communism or Putinism.
Merkel biography looks more and more like Blair.
She managed to jump the ship of state just before it hit rocks.
The difference is that, if you read her biography, she looks more and more like Russian agent of influence with each passing day.

BN2020
BN2020
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Russian Imperialism? When did Russians attack Paris, Berlin, Rome. London? Please enlighten me with this imperialism, I would like to learn some new facts.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago

So true Toryism is ‘paternal socialism’ is it? Who’d ha’ thunk it? Don’t give the (working) poor not what they and their (real?) socialist leaders say they want but rather what they truly need: that decision being made by their ‘betters’. There have been worse regimes I s’pose… mmmm

Last edited 2 years ago by Liam O'Mahony
Rob Britton
Rob Britton
2 years ago

This article appears to argue that the more state intervention the better. On the contrary! One reason for Boris Johnson’s downfall was his rather odd, and oft quoted, desire to “put his arm around everyone” metaphorically if not literally.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
2 years ago

I couldn’t disagree more with this analysis, the decline of the UK goes hand in hand with the increased size of the State & its huge interference in our lives and the economy.
Thatcher’s revolution wasn’t continued it was reversed, first by John Major and then every Govt since.
We need to shrink the state and reduce taxation leaving the people through private enterprise to run this country.
A State of half the size or less than today’s must change the structure of our economy to improve the lives of its people without the encumbrance of our Politician’s trying to run Health, Education et al … they really are not very good at it .. in fact they are really very bad at it!
When I listen to Kemi Badenoch it gives me hope and optimism that there are those in politics that are advocating a small state & jettisoning the nonsense of woke govts.
People don’t want paternalism Aris, they want the freedom to pursue their own lives and keep more of their own money!

harry storm
harry storm
2 years ago

RE: What is euphemistically termed the “cost of living crisis” is simply the first ripples of the historic shift of wealth and power from Europe and North America to the great Asian power blocs. The rising costs of energy and food resulting from the war in Ukraine will be dwarfed by the plummeting living standards that the great confrontation with China will usher in. 
All pessimistic assertion without even the semblance of supporting argument and/or facts. And the answer to this supposed looming catastrophe is ….. Harold MacMillan??? Gimme a break.

David Barnett
David Barnett
2 years ago

What is needed is a repudiation of the creeping statist orthodoxy that has been growing for 150 years and ever more rampant since World War I.
Thatcher’s biggest sin was accelerating the centralising of the state. I understand why she did it – she thought it was the only politically feasible way to curb the “people’s republics” set up by Labour-run cliques in various cities. She made the same mistake (regretted almost immediately) when she wanted to use EU authority to curb France’s flouting of the free-trade rules. The EU governance changes made the cancerous monster that we left a terminal malady.
We do not have a free-market economy. It is rigged by a fiat money system that allows a financial elite (those with closest access to the new-money spigot) to expropriate the middle classes. For a while, there was the illusion of low retail inflation – but note how owning assets (such as a home) was inflated out of reach of ordinary people.
Our education system has created a religious caste of hubristic mediocre minds that do not know how mediocre they are. Our civil servants, politicians and professionals are drawn from this caste and gave us things like the catastrophic Covid response (systematically wrong in every detail from lockdowns to masking to mass-deployment of “vaccines”), or the attempt to bring down Russia over Ukraine.
The entire ruling machine needs to be purged of the hubristic mediocre minds. The question is: have enough independent minds survived the educational system to provide the talent needed to make the system work again?

Last edited 1 year ago by David Barnett
Max Price
Max Price
2 years ago

Yes, yes, yes!

Michael Stanford
Michael Stanford
2 years ago

Fine article, sir. In my late 70s, I am old enough to remember the Macmillan years and from a poor enough background to remember the benefits it brought to families like mine. Of the current candidates, I believe that Mordaunt is the best of a poor bunch.

Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
2 years ago

Mordaunt – who says woman can have penises? i.e. The Female sex no longer exists
I don’t think so. Maybe ask your wife about this?
Badenoch the only one who seems to be a real conservative, politically and more importantly, philosophically – for Conservatism is at heart a philosophy unlike Socialism.

Bruno Lucy
Bruno Lucy
2 years ago

Very interesting article. Word for word, it could have been about France, except immigration……the French with their language inadequacy are not immigration material.
Yes, Torie candidates are most uninspiring, you can put this on Boris account and David Cameron’s account.
Where is the UK à of my youth, the UK I was boring my mother to send me to when I was 8, that ‘s how fascinating the UK was to a young boy and don’t ask me why because being at boarding school I had very limited access to tv. Nevertheless, this country has always been close to my heart probably because of the lovely families I was sent to. Nothing fancy, very middle class but what a break from the stifling French upbringing.
I really wish that what eve clown wins this race, I will do his her darned possible to restore the relation to France.

Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
2 years ago
Reply to  Bruno Lucy

God help us. Rampant immigration hit France first, thanks to Algeria. Way before the UK.
I spent two hours yesterday on the steps of the Palace of Fine Arts in Budapest, queuing for 2 hours for a quite spectacular Hieronymus Bosch exhibition. Engaged in convo with a couple, he, French, 77 and his lovely Hungarian wife. He was quite clear, rampant immigration, mostly Islamic was having a disastrous impact on French culture, and it was getting worse all the time. Same as in the UK

When did we all get so ****ing IGNORANT.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Poynton

With respect Jeremy we are not ignorant but I find the above comment unfortunate … true our country has declined in some ways but that is due to the appalling woke culture that corps and politicians do their bidding
Times are a changing there will be a people’s reaction to much of the nonsense that has become louder this last 20 years

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Bruno Lucy

Interesting take but I think you get it wrong way round.
It is maybe France which should repair relation to UK?
I think no one in EU wants to accept that UK is sovereign country.
If you feel your United States of Europe project is great success than why trying to imposed crazy rules on uk?
If you think EU needs to control goods going from UK into EU then implement border when it should be.
Between Ireland and UK.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
2 years ago

The last thing we need is MacMillan. He was a disaster. He should have taken de Gaulle’s hint that at most the UK could be associated. He smothered the debate about sovereignty, ie the power to say no. He launched the nonsense about “influence”. And most important of all he began winding down the UK’s large hi tech economy.

Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Story

FFS. There was No “high tech” economy back then. We were still recovering from WWII.

I was there. Were you? You clearly have NO idea of the post-war economy and seem very confused.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Poynton

Nuclear
Auto Industry
Pharma

Allan F
Allan F
2 years ago

our own Penny Mordaunt signed away 5% of Britain’s electricity capacity to avoid ruining the view from just one affluent constituent’s seaside cottage.

Utter utter garbage. A lie, in fact. Given the ultra-shady backgrounds and handouts of Aquind’s top two bosses to Tory MPs and the party, Miss Mordaunt was resolute in standing up against corruption. And you sneakily ignore the opposition of the Labour MPs in Portsmouth.
This is the first article I’ve read in Unherd. If the above statement represents the best the organ can offer, I’ll not be reading many more.

Laurence H
Laurence H
2 years ago

I wonder about this thesis: it did cross my mind that the “historic shift [east] of power” is prompted by Aris Roussinos’ attempt to understand the roots of the Ukraine war (especially given his recent proximity to it). If so, I think he’s right, this is Putin’s gamble. But the gamble isn’t itself yet a fact, it’s an attempt to make one – there has not yet been a decisive shift of power and wealth to the east (and it’s about time the relative weaknesses of the West became a bit more visibly exposed, especially to ourselves – more pity and shame on us it’s at the expense of thousands of Ukrainian lives), I haven’t read Gerbaudo’s book but this article did make me go and read a few more reviews of it. It seems to make a not uncommon mistake: confusing the absolute character of the distribution of land, resources, and influence with the relative distribution of wealth. If there’s only one copper mine and you have it and I don’t, and I think you are weak, I might well try to take it from you (especially if my name’s Putin). But if the £20 in your pocket changes into £200 while what’s in mine remains the same, I’m not necessarily really any poorer, just a bit more envious. I’ve yet to be convinced that the relative increases in wealth in the East are not indicative of a more general long-term global uplift. This may prompt geopolitical shifts, but it isn’t one of those shifts in itself.

Martin Glenn
Martin Glenn
2 years ago

Excellent article-we need someone with vision and statecraft to guide us through to a new “normal” – maybe one of the candidates will surprise us.

George Venning
George Venning
2 years ago

Why reserve your opprobrium for the diminutive figures of the current conservative party? The clear vision, dirigisme and willingness to use the power of the State would surely fit at least as well within the programme of a left-wing Government as a right wing or even a centrist one.
Indeed, the only recent occasion on which a potential party of Government has set out a programme even half as ambitious at those of the immediate post-war Governments was Labour in 2019.
The conventional wisdom on that programme is that it was too long, insufficiently focussed and repellant to voters. My own view is that it’s pretty hard to see what the public might have thought of the actual policies in that manifesto because the discussion at the time was primarily about Brexit, Corbyn’s suitability for office and the vituperative behaviour of the PLP itself. Any party that carried those handicaps into a general election was going to get slaughtered – irrespective of what might have been in the manifesto.
That’s a shame, not only because I (personally) think that the policies in Labour’s 2019 manifesto were better than the Conservative platform, but because it deprived us of an opportunity to see how the public would have reacted to the re-emergence of an active state.
My own feeling is that a Government which had even a halfway credible plan to fix housing would have a lock on a generation of votes in exactly the way that Right to Buy locked the boomers and older x-ers up for the Tories. (Note that Right to Buy itself was originally a Labour policy).

Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
2 years ago

Spot on. Toryism has gone downhill since SuperMac

Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Poynton

Downtickers who cannot justify their downtick are cowards.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Poynton

I think you might be wrong here.
I get down voted all the time, so what?
So I am very much against Russian Imperialism, invasion of Ukraine etc..
After a while repeating your arguments against, in my view, Russian stooges gets tiring, so you down vote.
I guess they do the same with me.
It is not cowardice, just not having time and inclination to repeat the same stuff in response to posters repeating Russian propaganda.

R Baron
R Baron
2 years ago

If Germany followed Mutti’s policies on energy, switched on N-2, the country would be doing just fine if not better, Russia began pumping gas to both Germanies from 1966, never any hitch, Cold War or not. It was chickening out under pressure from the American Governing elite that fugged it up for them, they will become less competitive because energy, the ubiquitous component of nature and every conceivable man made construct like the economy, the household or anything else needs it to function, the car sector, the engine of the German economy, will lose out to the Chinese carmakers eventually.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

at least Penny Mordaunt is gorgeous looking…Who cares what she says… unlike Tedia Trussnooze inducer…

Margaret F
Margaret F
1 year ago

Britain needs Enoch Powell. Enoch was right; if anything he seriously underestimated the problem.
Actually the entire West, Europe, America, all of it, needs Enoch Powell.
And the fact that our leaders are too corrupt or frightened to talk about it does not mean we must be silent as well.

Andrzej Wasniewski
Andrzej Wasniewski
1 year ago

Functioning state, respecting human rights would be really useful but the state is busy.
Facilitating gender fluidity, enforcing lockdowns, censoring, suppressing free movement of people, destroying energy supply. They do not have time for trivial things.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrzej Wasniewski
Pamela Booker
Pamela Booker
1 year ago

It has always been my contention that the most important economic and social unit is the family in the form of the household – be it single or multi-member. If this were so, fewer households would depend on state/Sunak largesse as we are witnessing now with government baling out shareholders of oil and water companies.
Siphoning off all profits to shareholders instead of stimulating the economy by keeping costs to households down, and employees paid well enough to spend, thereby stimulating the economy naturally without draining capital from it, is all that is wrong with our current system.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
2 years ago

Good piece. One Nation Conservatism must step up a gear and be far more maternalist with Penny Mordaunt at the helm.

Salacious Montgomery Crumb
Salacious Montgomery Crumb
2 years ago

Yes, yes and thrice yes. Thatcher was an abberation (dare I say abomination) in the Conservative tradition. We need to return Conservatism to its communitarian roots and excise the foul cancer of (neo)liberalsm. Thatcher is remembered fondly for the victory in the Falklands (the laurels for which properly belong to our armed forces) Her legacy, corrupting to it’s core, has basked in that shade for too long. Macmillan2.0 for the 21st Century!

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago

Problem is that neoliberalism is disease of both so called right and left.
Regarding Falklands, you still need PM with balls to make decisions.
Obviously with military capacity to execute the plan.
I was not here at the time, but most people who experienced the 70s told me that it was time for different course.
You want lefty rubbish, move to Greece or Italy…

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
2 years ago

Roussinos for PM.