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Starmer’s hollow vision for Britain He has no plans to alleviate the North's poverty

A man without a plan. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

A man without a plan. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)


October 12, 2023   6 mins

There is a vast, petrifying hollowness to the British economy. As you race around dealing with everyday life, the reassuring facade of the state is still there: the police and roads, the schools and hospitals. And yet, if you ever get a minute to stop, you are immediately struck by the eerie feeling that there’s not much left behind that facade. Like the crumbling mansion in Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard, Britain spends its time in just a few rooms, closing off whole wings once thriving with life, dust sheets draped over the armchairs, curtains drawn tight.

If there is one city which embodies this national decline, it is surely Liverpool, where I spent much of this week, at the Labour Party conference. During the Thirties, this was the great imperial port: a place of extraordinary wealth and grandeur, though of course no paradise lost. While Liverpool was a heaving metropolis by the sea, it was also a place of appalling squalor and exploitation; an English Belfast, where Catholics and Protestants crammed into teeming tenements sealed off from each other. Today, life is immeasurably better: the slums cleared, the sectarian divide all but gone. 

But what has been built in place of its lost industry? What does Liverpool do? These are difficult questions to answer, but they are no easier for almost every other city in Britain today apart from London. What does Birmingham do? Leeds? Newcastle?

Walk from Liverpool Lime Street down to the conference centre where Keir Starmer promised a decade of national rejuvenation, and you are presented with a scene of civic failure: not only low-level littering and dirtiness, but startling homelessness — beggars either slumped outside the latest fashionable shop to have sprung up, or lying in tents, pizza boxes slung from their roofs, with pleas for help sprawled over them. You don’t need to study the latest GDP figures to know something is wrong; that there’s a sickness in our society, a failure in our way of doing things. You need only open your eyes to see that much of the nation is quite obviously less pleasant than similarly sized places across Europe or North America. Why is this so? And why aren’t we more angry?

How you choose to answer these questions is, I think, the real political divide in Britain. For many Tories, it is a question of waste, inefficiency and spending priorities. Our local councils just need to stop frittering away money on diversity training and the like — and the Government in Westminster on things like HS2 and international development Sunak’s speech in Manchester gave a clear sense of this. After casting his expert eye over the national books, he informed us that we’re wasting too much money on infrastructure projects. For Labour, meanwhile, it is the opposite. The reason the public realm is crumbling is principally because of austerity — we are not spending enough. Liverpool would be clean and pleasant and thriving, if only we would put our hand in our pocket to maintain it properly. 

Both of these responses contain important truths, and yet they are both still wrong. To the Conservative charge, the response is simple: getting stuff done is now structurally expensive in Britain, a reality which is making us poorer and which the Government has done almost nothing to change. Cancelling HS2 doesn’t alter this. It accepts it. It is principally an admission of gross government failure. To Labour’s austerity charge, the answer is that Liverpool is now structurally poor, not just politically starved of cash. Central government spending can alleviate some of the worst symptoms — and should — but it cannot change the fact that it depends on money being transferred from other parts of the UK.

Like many other cities, the source of Liverpool’s structural woes is complex and contested, wrapped up in the decline of empire, geography, technological change and political mismanagement. Containerisation changed the docks forever before Britain made its choice to prioritise European trade. Together, this meant Liverpool not only had permanently fewer jobs but it was simply on the wrong side of the country. Dover and Felixstowe, facing Europe, are Britain’s premier ports now. But what is true for Liverpool is also true in similar ways for Belfast, Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle — all the great cities of the union outside London’s orbit. 

Back in Liverpool, the main industry is now tourism: the cruise-goers stopping off at the city to spend their cash, the stag and hen parties staying in Airbnbs, the football fans going to Anfield, the weekend shoppers visiting LiverpoolOne. But while tourism into Liverpool and our other great cities should be celebrated, it is hardly the route to prosperity. The kind of jobs linked to this industry are not those of an advanced, highly paid economy such as, say, the Netherlands or California. They are often low-paid, insecure and seasonal.

The truth is, you don’t have to venture far from the centre of Liverpool to see the limits of this approach. On Monday, I met the former Liverpool FC footballer Jamie Carragher in his home suburb of Bootle, just north of the city. It is a land of obvious, endemic poverty. Outside the Brunswick Club where we met, there was a giant mural to Carragher on the gable end of a terraced house. Perhaps it was this that made me immediately think of Belfast, as well as the general sense of economic decay only partially masked by the “redevelopment” cash ploughed into the centre. 

“Poverty”, however, is not the whole point here. Liverpool is not Bootle, just as it is not its city centre. Liverpool is also the middle-class suburbia of its south. If you are a teacher, a doctor, or a nurse, you have a better standard of living in Liverpool than in London. And yet, this does not mean all is fine. Such an economy ultimately depends on money generated elsewhere. And the fact is, too much of the country is in this same boat — reliant on too little of the country.

In Starmer’s speech to conference, he seemed to understand the scale of the challenge facing him, should he win the next election. “If you think our job in 1997 was to rebuild a crumbling public realm,” he said, warming to his task, “that in 1964 it was to modernise an economy left behind by the pace of technology; in 1945 to build a new Britain out of the trauma of collective sacrifice. Then in 2024 it will have to be all three.” For Starmer, such aspirations are surely right. Few can plausibly deny that our public services are in a bad way; that the economy is in desperate need of reform; or that the pandemic has left behind a complicated legacy of mixed emotions about our response.

When it comes to a remedy, though, Starmer’s solutions are inadequate. On public services, he offered what Duncan Robinson has rightly identified as the “Reform Fairy” — the idea that, simply by reforming our public services, we can avoid the more difficult redistributive choices forced upon us by our ageing society. On the pandemic, Starmer’s solution to that collective trauma seems to amount to restoring the good chaps to government and replacing a few bad eggs. This, again, will certainly help, but it also avoids the more difficult questions that our politicians need to address, from the vulnerability of our care homes to our dependence on China, not to mention the extraordinary extent to which we shut down our society based on little evidence and middling results. Are we willing to confront these issues? It seems not.

At one point in his speech, Starmer spoke of the need to modernise the economy by invoking Harold Wilson in 1964. Of course, he did not acknowledge that Wilson’s grand plan utterly failed, forcing him to devalue the pound, withdraw from the East of Suez and eventually apply to join the European Community (and be rejected) before losing power in 1970. Today, Starmer’s main economic offering is to double down on Net Zero as a way to re-industrialise the economy and shore up the union with Scotland, while also loosening planning laws to accelerate house-building and construction. One problem with these policy proscriptions is that, as Helen Thompson has pointed out, there is little evidence that Net Zero will bring back significant numbers of heavy manufacturing jobs to Britain. Another is that the main beneficiary of reformed planning laws will be the South-East, where houses are needed most.

As any housing expert will tell you, Britain does not have the same housing crisis across the whole country but acute housing crises in particular areas — principally in and around London or Cambridge. In Bootle, for instance, you can find an end-of-terrace three-bedroom family home for around £150,000. In Cambridge, a similar property will set you back at least three times that. 

Ultimately, then, Net Zero and planning reform will not make Liverpool, Belfast, Glasgow or Birmingham rich again. For that, far more difficult decisions will need to be taken that will almost certainly involve trade-offs with the South-East: decisions about infrastructure and education, taxation and general British competitiveness, some of which might even come into conflict with the aspiration to hit Net Zero by 2050. As one senior figure in Downing Street told me this week: “Everyone knows what’s needed. Everyone knows we need a far more active industrial policy paid for with higher taxes. But this government cannot do it for ideological reasons and Starmer’s Labour can’t do it for political reasons. And so we’re stuck.” And this is before we consider our future relationship with Europe: whether to diverge and compete or align and even potentially rejoin.

When I put this to a leading figure on the centre-right of British politics, he told me that the only game-changing option for the British economy involved a form of targeted, state-directed investment to create a new mega-city of 15 million people in the arc between Oxford and Cambridge. Will a future Conservative opposition grasp this nettle? Or finally back an alternative version of this in the North? It seems unlikely. Right now, we seem to have reached the stage where we are quietly acknowledging the scale of our problems, but are only prepared to offer the most timid of solutions. If there’s a gaping hollowness in the British economy, it is matched by the emptiness of our political rhetoric as well.


Tom McTague is UnHerd’s Political Editor. He is the author of Betting The House: The Inside Story of the 2017 Election.

TomMcTague

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Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
7 months ago

So everyone in our failed Establishment believes that ‘active State’ interventionism is the only way forward? I could weep. Bideneconomics is a potemkin village, its flaws still hidden. It has swiftly taken the US and world to the brink of a Debt Super Crash. 33 trillion dollar debt & counting. Every Western state – EU UK US – is crushed by the costs of QE insanity & suffocated further by the criminal money tree splurging in the State lockdown catastrophe, creating perma high tax regimes to feed a broken unfit for service public sector. Only a radical Neo Thatcherite counter revolution which asserts the primacy of private enterprise, innovation and wealth creation and destroys the EU styled Regulatory Blob & Vetocracy will arrest a decline reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s traumatic collapse. We feel more and more like a Communist state with Gosplan inspired Five Year Net Zero Budgets, aggressive state equality credos, no free speech and a ruling unelected CCP like Clerisy. The State is the source of our immiseration, not our saviour.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
7 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

The physical chains of slavery have been replaced by the economic chains of debt and the physical chains were easy to break.

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
7 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

This is just nonsense – fantasy on stilts. It’s as ideological as the old communists. If the free market doesn’t work that just means we need more free market!
We absolutely don’t need more tax on ‘ordinary Working people’ but can anyone explain to me why those ‘earning’ their income from shares and dividends pay less tax than on PAYE? And can anyone explain why the most successful economies in Europe are not low tax small state Trussite utopias? Far from it. This country has the most appalling record in training at technical levels – one of the key reasons for our industrial weakest. And the reason for that is the the neo-Thatcherite nonsense that it’s not the states job to train people – private providers should do that. Well I can tell you first hand they have made a pigs ear of it. And this is absolutely spot on.
“Everyone knows what’s needed. Everyone knows we need a far more active industrial policy paid for with higher taxes. But this government cannot do it for ideological reasons and Starmer’s Labour can’t do it for political reasons. And so we’re stuck.”

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

Huh?? Where is this unfettered Trussite capitalism? She had 49 days. Where did the Quangocracy, the red tape, ESG, the cold eyed striking public sector unions, the vast Regulatory Machine, the CCC Net Zero straitjackets all go in your fantasy UK?? Every market has been utterly warped by cataclysmic state intervention over the last 30 years. A national labour market totally rogered first by free movement then by 30bn tax credits and rampant welfarism. A housing market shattered by a combination of an unplanned 6m mass population influx, mad schemes like Help To Buy and a mass of barmy EU planning and development blockages. An energy market distorted by eco insanity – no nukes, huge green levies for funky renewables they cannot even connect up to the grid for 10 years and the not so capitalist 75% Windfall taxes on oil and gas – just to be sure Granny freezes in winter. On and on…. You ignore the giant elephant in room – there are in 2023 NO successful economies as both the EU as well as the UK are in recession and near bust, drowning in a QE ocean of magic money Debt, sunk by the Banking Crash, Zero Interest Regime the Covid catastrophe and Germany’s nasty addiction to murderous Russian and Chinese dictatorships. You want Angela and the workshy wfh broken British State to ‘train’ us? Whatever. Of course our technical training is appalling. But I do not see how that one failure blinds you to the need for us to revive an entrpreneurial incentived dynamic private enterprise sector rather rely on the car crash that is the British State.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

An excellent synopsis of ‘failed Britannia’, I thank you.

j watson
j watson
7 months ago

Trouble is it’s a poor prognosis and lacks real insight. The Right had 14 years, lest we forget, and veered chaotically between neo-liberalism and more protectionist (Brexit nirvana mirage syndrome – BNMS) little Englander contradictions with a Global Britain bit of nonsense. All over the place and WM offers no real new penetrating thesis on why that’s occurred and what one does now. And what one does now has to work in a democratic environment so one has to engage with how one takes people with you.
UK remains the 6th largest economy in the world and we sometimes forget that. Growth will be low for some time, partly our own fault because of twaddle like Brexit and failure to invest in an industrial strategy the last decade, but as much because of other world events and on-going recovery from the pandemic. But the fact is within there is still much we can do to create a better economy and society. The Author touches on one key national issue – should we re-focus the Oxbridge-London arc further North? It seems obvious we should for multiple reasons, but it’d take some planning and time. This sort of re-balancing can only be done with Govt intervention. Where we go on this issue will be major determinant of the country will live in come 2040.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
7 months ago
Reply to  j watson

What predictable tosh. Standard issue lazy wokey word gobbledegook. It would be good and fun to read an intelligent critique addressing my post – but you just thunder in with your progressive groupthunk ‘Brexxxit is the root of all evil’ Bolloxxx. Neo liberal ‘Right’ ruling us for 13 years?? Did you notice a thing called Coalition & your fellow travelling Lib Dems?? Furlough?? The Welfare Bill? The Tax Levies??? You call for more State Intervention (quel surprise!), failing to pick up on any of the multiple crippling failures I describe (energy/labour/Net Zero Interest/the Covid Lockdown/uncontrolled immigration) which your unfit workshy crappy State has pounded us with for 20 or more years.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Actually it is worse than that and has been going on since at least 1945 if not before. True there have been the occasional ‘fight backs’, but almost inexorably the situation has ultimately only worsened.

Fortunately, and from a very personal point of view, someone like myself has probably never lived so well since the heady days of the Pax Romana!

However, and through NO fault of my own, I have enjoyed a ridiculously privileged life style that is very sadly completely beyond the reach of my fellow countrymen, thanks mainly to mind boggling incompetence of HMG over seven decades and more.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

Without private ownership and entrepreneurial incentive you are left with a zero sum game.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
7 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

If you think the problems governments create are bad , just wait until you see their solutions. Sorry, it’s a trick question, their solution is always more government.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
7 months ago

First, there never was any “austerity”. Osborne talked a good fight to keep the markets onside but public spending went up every year. Many people may complain that the increased spending wasn’t directed to their particular favoured areas – more funding for education says one, more funding for benefits says another – but that’s democracy at work, with an elected government directing resources (more or less) as trailed in their manifesto. Relentlessly increasing public spending ain’t austerity.
Second, it’s very alarming to learn that there is still at least one senior official in Downing St who thinks more taxation is the answer. There is only one answer, increased productivity.
Third, no economy has ever prospered without cheap energy. We are currently taking active steps to make our energy supplies as expensive as possible. Madness.

glyn harries
glyn harries
7 months ago

Austerity refers not to overall public spending but spending on the key areas of the public sector like police, welfare, health and education and social services via local authorities. It is undeniable that spending on these areas was slashed after 2010. That public spending continued to rise in other areas was oftern a consequence of austerity.

j watson
j watson
7 months ago

Just one point – a reliance on fossil fuels, the Rotterdam spot market, and the OPEC and Oligarch cartels is not a long term strategic choice that protects us or creates greater resilience. And a bit more North Sea production or fracking in Cumbria won’t change the price that much. The transition to less reliance on fossil fuels does have some costs, but much greater medium and longer term benefits. And therein lies the perennial tension – short term expediency vs medium/long term strategy. To be fair not easy for any politicians to navigate but overall if the costs of transition can be apportioned with less impact on the poorest the population ‘gets it’.

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs
7 months ago

Societies become more complex over time by solving problems, which in turn leads to the creation of new problems.

As these societies continue to develop solutions in the form of increased organisational / bureaucratic complexity and resource expenditure, they encounter the law of diminishing marginal returns. This means that each subsequent solution yields less benefit relative to its cost.

Eventually, the societal complexity becomes unsustainable, and any further investment doesn’t yield enough benefits to justify the costs.

When societies can no longer adapt due to these diminishing returns on their investments in complexity, they become vulnerable to collapse.

In essence, it’s not necessarily external pressures or invasions that cause the decline of complex societies, but rather the internal dynamics related to over-investment in complexity with decreasing returns on that investment.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jobs

I don’t doubt there’s some truth in that, but there’s also a stark simplicity in the fact that the conditions which enabled our great cities to arise and thrive not only no longer pertain, but will never do so again in quite the same way.

It’s therefore useless hankering after the kind of industrial renewal that McTague and Labour yearn for, where “the working man” can once again be seen as fodder for their electoral chances. A Labour victory at the next election will likely occur through Tory default, no other reason.

So, what to do? A start can be made by abandoning Net Zero, which isn’t to say abandoning renewal energy options but simply to stop further bankrupting ourselves in the process. The Oxford/Cambridge arc is an interesting concept, as would a Manchester/Liverpool arc, or a Leeds/Hull, or a Newcastle/Sunderland etc plus Glasgow/Edinburgh and Cardiff/Swansea. In other words, alternative power hubs, with all that entails including political power.

But what do we hear from the likes of that political guru Carragher, now widely consulted it seems. He thinks Manchester should be seen as rivals, and not just in a sporting sense. Is it any wonder our political class are bankrupt of ideas when homage is paid to such outdated tripe?

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Steve you’ve brought up many intriguing points. It’s like a garden, isn’t it? Leave it unattended and it gets overrun with weeds, but smother it with too much care and it’ll wither away just the same.

Our cities had a golden age, and while the temptation is to recreate that, we’ve got to adapt to new soils and shifting environmental factors. I agree that alternative power hubs may pose an interesting solution, however only if their goal is to reduce complexity, not to further build on existing levels.

And on Carragher – well, if he’s our modern-day gardening guru, I’d say we’re in dire need of some fresh horticultural advice in the political sphere.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jobs

I’m sensing some “compost” related analogies are about to appear :).

Last edited 7 months ago by Ian Barton
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Many years ago I had a temporary job lecturing at a college of FE. God the YTS footballers were thick, even thicker than the YTS butchers.
120 years ago our regional cities, Manchester, Leeds Newcastle etc. were regional powerhouses. These cities took pride in their achievements and the power and the will to shape their own destinies.
A lot happened in the intervening period but I think the biggest reason for their decline was 2 world wars which resulted in the centralization of power and decision making in London

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jobs

You must be right. We appear now to be trapped in an overly complicated, frightening and unsustainable crisis. Grave grand strategic errors have piled upvin multiple key markets and we are reaping the whirlwind of 2 decades worth of unplanned F Uppery – no nukes no houses no reservoirs no airports no fracking no big grid no GPs no roads no railways no cheap energy. Not a good idea if have taken in two full Norways worth of people in a decade!!! The one and only hope lies in the energy of wealth creators and the dynamic private sector. It alone can again generate prosperity. But there is a 20 year barrier still in place and the whole culture is hostile now – capitalism is discriminatory and icky; the anti growth regulatory Grey Machine and Vetocracy, the ESG mania and the heavy burden of cultural risk aversion and diktat inherited from the EU legal systems all bear down hard. So long as all this remains unchallenged, we will never be able to grow. The NHS/Welfarist State and grisly wfh Blob will overshadow everything, trampling on the entrepreneurs we need while they make their Neo British Leyland Green State Energy companies… and make China rich.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Well ‘we’ had more than three centuries of happy ‘profit and plunder’, during which time we inadvertently ‘civilised’ much of the known world.
Now perhaps we are suffering the consequences of such ‘effortless superiority’ and must accept a certain diminution of former standards?

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
7 months ago

Floreat CS! Your free thinking a privilege for us.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
8 months ago

He has no plans to alleviate the North’s poverty
That’s probably for the best. Government plans usually exacerbate, rather than alleviate, despite all intentions to the contrary.

Last edited 8 months ago by Right-Wing Hippie
AC Harper
AC Harper
7 months ago

I suspect there are no fixes available to Government because they will inevitably be distorted and diminished by short term political ‘expectations’.
A suggestion? Disperse the Civil Service Departments into Northern Cities. It should be seen as a generational effort, both for the sake of the current Civil Service staff and the sake of the gaining cities to step up with modest infrastructure and housing for families. This will ‘spread the wealth’ and make it more difficult for lobbyists to be pervasive, and signal a break in the ‘London view’ of life.
It will never happen of course. There are too many vested interests in the status quo – which is where the article came in, I think.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
7 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

It’s been tried AC. In the 90s a large number of MOD civil servants were relocated to Glasgow and Bristol. It didn’t work. In Glasgow, especially, it just added yet more to the number of people living off the taxpayer in those locations and thus further embedding the vote for statist Labour and, in due course, the SNP.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
7 months ago

I’m often somewhat skeptical of the ‘Road to Wigan Pier’ type articles, loosely tied into recent political happenings, especially when they are related to places I know well. This, however, has the ring of truth about it. More than 30 years have passed since much of the heavy industry left Liverpool and the former industrial town of Birkenhead across the Mersey and nothing has come to replace it. The reason that Victorian ‘slums’ have been cleared, especially in Birkenhead, is not so much that they were unfit for habitation as that the population in these areas has collapsed. Whole streets of houses that could have been refurbished (and which would set you back a pretty penny in Oxford, Cambridge or London, as the author notes) have been levelled.
Without any form of private sector employment that pays the sort of wages where people can buy property and raise children, and without an education system that equips young people with practical, technical skills rather than lending out tens of thousands of pounds (unlikely to be repaid) for them to obtain mostly worthless degrees, the majority of the UK’s provincial cities and towns will continue to decline. How you get there is anyone’s guess, but you might hope that some politicians might give this some thought.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
7 months ago

The Blairite solution was to turn every polytechnic into a uni and flood declining towns with young students. A pure Keynsian play which might have worked if those students were properly educated and the State was not liable to puck up..in the future .yet another trillion pound debt bomb currently sitting off books (like NHS Pension Trillion Bomb).

Sarah Atkin
Sarah Atkin
7 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

I’m pretty sure it was John Major who turned polytechnics into universities.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago
Reply to  Sarah Atkin

Correct, and the wretched toad returned the ‘Stone of Scone’ to the undeserving Scotch. God help us from such so called Tories!

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
7 months ago
Reply to  Sarah Atkin

This was implemented on Major’s watch in 1992, but the idea was presumably cooked up under Thatcher’s tenure. Blair certainly ramped it up with every further education college (some of them once commendable institutions that delivered a skilled workforce) turned into third rate universities offering worthless humanities degrees. How else was he to offer tertiary education to the point where you are sending people who must be at average levels of intelligence.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
8 months ago

“Everyone knows what’s needed. Everyone knows we need a far more active industrial policy paid for with higher taxes.” Jesus wept. Better to look across to Ireland, even further “on the wrong side” from Europe than Liverpool, which has developed a successful export orientated industrial base by having lower taxes.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
8 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Ireland was essentially a tax haven, the low tax rates haven’t brought in an industrial base with highly skilled well paid jobs, it’s simply seen large multinationals use at as a base for their EU operations so as to minimise their tax obligations

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
7 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Tell yourself what you like but total employment in Ireland has more than doubled from 1.2 million in 1995, to 2.6 million today, since the rate of Corporation Tax was cut from 40% to 12.5%. These are real jobs, carried out by real people, paying real taxes into the Exchequer, and most of them do not work in the multinational sector. This comes after many decades of sluggish economic performance in Ireland up to that point, despite (or perhaps because of) very active intervention by the Irish state. Every county in Ireland without exception has seen strong population and employment growth since 1995. Wouldn’t it have been nice for Liverpool to have achieved the same?

Last edited 7 months ago by Stephen Walsh
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
7 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Irelands population grew by 1.5 million people in that time, mostly as a result of immigration of working age people, therefore it stands to reason that the number of workers would have increased in that time. The early 90’s was also a time the economy was struggling in Ireland, which is no doubt why you started in 95 (just before the Celtic tiger took off) as a way to inflate your point.
I agree that a high corporate tax can lead to foreign companies taking their business elsewhere, but to that’s solely the reason for the numbers you presented is rather simplistic and misleading. The UK has also added over 8 million jobs to its economy in the timeframe you mention, and that’s starting from a much stronger position than Ireland that was still largely agricultural

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
7 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Economic growth triggered immigration, not vice versa. Up until the 1990s, Ireland had weak economic growth and was an exporter of people. 1995 was the last year before the Corporation Tax regime changed. Total employment in Ireland had hardly grown in the 50 years before that. The UK can learn from the example of what has been achieved through lower taxes right on its doorstep. Or it can bet the house on an activist industrial strategy run by politicians and civil servants and funded by higher taxes. If the latter can double employment in 28 years, we’ll know it was the right choice.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
7 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Ireland grew their population by 1.5 million people, and added 1.2 million jobs. Britain in the same time grew their population by 9 million people and added 8 million jobs, so remarkably similar figures despite the different approach to taxation, therefore I believe it’s simply immigration adding jobs (as these extra people need houses, cars, petrol, food etc) rather than the other way round

B Moore
B Moore
7 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

I don’t know where they get this idea from, Ireland has full employment for several years now, with a strong manufacturing base.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Precisely, a veritable ‘mirage’ that will all too soon see the demise of the ‘Celtic pussycat’.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
7 months ago

The observation that neither party has a solution to an imbalanced economy across the country is correct.
The idea we need more government intervention to fix it is wrong. We need entrepreneurs, freed from government impediments.
only wealth creation creates wealth, and only entrepreneurs create wealth, not governments.

j watson
j watson
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

Lets assume something in this AW. Thus how do we get more entrepreneurs? Well one thing we’d have to do is change the way investing works in the UK moving away from bricks and mortar to business ventures. The return on capital has to be greater for the latter. To create the environment for that does require some Govt intervention in the rules of the game, but in the UK it’d run against an awful lot of vested interest.