by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 17
November 2022
Analysis
14:05

Jeremy Hunt has no vision for Britain

The Chancellor isn't willing to take on entrenched interests
by Peter Franklin
Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt. Credit: Getty

Elon Musk doesn’t pull his punches. Yesterday, it was reported that he emailed his Twitter employees demanding an “extremely hardcore” effort to “build a breakthrough Twitter 2.0”. Being part of this mission would mean “working long hours at high intensity”. However, there is an alternative option, namely “three months of severance”. According to the email, employees have until later today to make their choice. 

Another hardcore offer was made today — this one from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt. In his Autumn Statement, he unveiled an estimated £30 billion in spending cuts and £24 billion in tax rises. Further, no matter how many hours they work and at what intensity, millions of workers’ pay won’t keep pace with inflation.

Unlike the Musk ultimatum there’s no option to decline, but the British people do have until the next election to decide whether or not to return a Conservative government. Right now, that looks unlikely. So what can the Tories do to turn around their poll ratings?

The promise of “stability” (Hunt’s top priority) is not enough: as Liz Truss found out, this is the minimum we demand from a government. What could make a difference, though, is a hint that we’re working towards economic transformation. The upheavals of the last 15 years have made it clear that our current British model just isn’t up to the challenges of the 21st century. 

So did the Chancellor unveil an exciting vision for a Britain 2.0? Not really. He did make efforts to protect the budgets that most obviously contribute to growth and productivity — like funding for infrastructure, skills and R&D. In addition, there was a promise to invest more into energy efficiency. But, while welcome, this is only playing catch-up after David Cameron’s short-sighted decision to “cut the green crap”.   

As for reforming public services, Hunt announced some policy reviews. However, these will be led by such blasts-from-the-past as Patricia Hewitt and Michael Barber. I doubt we can expect many game-changers there. 

Hunt did refer to the Mais Lecture given in February by Rishi Sunak (back when he was Chancellor). This was Sunak’s ‘big ideas’ speech, which outlined a plan get Britain growing again. But instead of developing these ideas, they’ve been diluted. In particular, there was no mention of the intention to transform tax incentives — so that lazy British business starts investing in productivity. Without radical action on this front the UK will remain a bargain-basement economy dependent on cheap imported labour. 

Comparisons have been drawn between the current government and Margaret Thatcher’s first term as Prime Minister. This helps Sunak against the die-hard Thatcherite wing of his party — because, contrary to the Right-wing narrative, she began by increasing taxation in the face of an economic crisis. However, Sunak should not forget that Thatcher’s initial caution was followed-up by radical action. Having stabilised the economy, she then reformed it, taming militant unions and privatising moribund industries. 

The vested interests holding us back in 2022 are different — from rapacious landlords to selfish NIMBYs — but they’re just as entrenched. Without a vision for change, Jeremy Hunt’s “stability” will mostly benefit the next Labour government. 

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Matt M
Matt M
13 days ago

The vested interests holding us back in 2022 are different — from rapacious landlords to selfish NIMBYs — but they’re just as entrenched. 

Rapacious landlords and selfish NIMBYs are just reactions to increasing the population by half a million people every year. Of course rents get jacked up and locals object to new builds.
If you want a vision, reduce immigration to half the number of new houses built in the previous year and suddenly things will get much better.

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
13 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

Correct. While the country is playing catchup as people flood in, there’s no chance of getting on top of the myriad problems these increasing numbers generate. The best thing we could do for the future of the planet would be to set an example of a stable, then gradually reducing, population, tackling its inevitable ageing, and translating ‘growth’ into more equality and an overall better quality of life, not just more ‘stuff’. That will mean tough choices, but it’s better we take them now before civil unrest, collapsing services, and demands for an authoritarian leader to sort it all out overtake us.

Matt M
Matt M
13 days ago
Reply to  Gordon Arta

Spot on Gordon.
And what is more we wouldn’t be the only ones doing it. Japan are already doing what you say – severely limiting immigration and learning how to cope with an ageing population and slowing consumer spending. I’m sure they would welcome another medium sized, rich, maritime island nation sharing their experience and collaborating on new processes.
Talking of the future of the planet, I think there is a further ethical consideration. Our current immigration policy is stripping poorer nations of their youth and their professional class. Surely they should stay at home and help develop their own countries.

j watson
j watson
13 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

‘Japan …Learning how to cope with an ageing population’ – yes via a v expensive Long Term Care Insurance and additional co-payments, all run by the Govt and not by the private sector (as they wouldn’t underwrite the risk-share). It is the case we need similar, and this been known for some time – Dilnot report etc. The reluctance is political. It’ll be seen as a compulsory additional tax. Hence they andtheir supporters keep ducking it. If you are advocating for that then fair enough, but one hopes you haven’t got some rose-tinted view on actually how the Japanese are coping with this?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
10 days ago
Reply to  j watson

..
Sadly he does!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
10 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

Having destroyed those countries through ruthless exploitation and subsequent neocolonialism they have no choice but to follow the money: their money, that your greedy predecessors stole from them. You also insisted they speak English! You’d have been better advised to insist on them speaking French wouldn’t you? Work it out…

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
13 days ago
Reply to  Gordon Arta

Correct. But the addiction of the Blairite State and business to the heroin of mass migration is an unmentionable – it is deemed a raycist concept and inimical to the new multicultural state. Note the hilarious/pathetic adherence of Greens and our Home Office to Open Borders when it is uncontrolled mass migration of 600,000 a year that has utterly crippled our unprepared now Third World Public Services. Unmentionable too – the utter folly of blind Net Zero policy whilst we have no nukes no independent energy resilience. So long as the BBC actively censors debate on the harms of mass migration, Net Zero and the cancer of Welfarism and dependency, there can be no happy endings for the hapless Tories or the ruling failed Blairite Technocracy..or us. The debate exists only here. And it is literally Unherd by the wider public.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
10 days ago
Reply to  Gordon Arta

It’s pathetic: one of the very few things that might save GB is immigration of young, fit, keen, fertile people who would willing save GB from total collapse!
But like lemmings hell bent on the cliff you hate the very thing that might save you! You won’t work: you won’t reproduce.. and you don’t want to import those who will do it for yaqou!
We Irish are tired of doing everything for you! Like you we’re now to posh to push! ..both wheelbarrows and babies. Either accept immigrants or get off yer arses and do something other than moan about it!

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
13 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

The author’s final paragraph that you quote undercuts whatever he said previously and appeared entirely detached from it with emotionally loaded adjectives. Landlords naturally require more when their costs rise and shortages of accommodation make it possible to increase rent. It has nothing to do with them being rapacious. Equally why should not people oppose new developments that degrade their environment? It is not selfish to oppose environmental degradation simply because they will be most immediately affected. This is the sort of stupid one sided emotionalism that brings journalism into disrepute.

Matt M
Matt M
13 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

It is a strange blindness they have! They only see one side of the problem – the lack of supply – while studiously ignoring the hugely increased demand.

j watson
j watson
13 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

The myopia appears quite widespread from some comments above. Plenty of evidence immigrants in aggregation contribute more in tax than they take out. Remember they usually arrive as adults of working age. Thus whilst some are children most do not have 16-20 years of education before making a contribution. Evidence of EU migration showed alot then returned home later in life, thus saving us the costs associated with ageing too. Interestingly this less so for those non-EU, and yet here we are having swopped EU migration for non-EU. Remarkable turnaround accomplished by the Tories and their supporters.

Matt M
Matt M
13 days ago
Reply to  j watson

You have a number of things wrong here I’m afraid.

1.Most immigrants – EU and non-EU are low wage earners.The reason people come here, whether from Spain, Romania, Poland, Albania or Iran, is to earn higher wages than they can earn at home.
2.While some go home, most don’t. 1 in 6 people in Britain is currently foreign born. The most common non-British nationality is Polish (EU) and Indian.
3.A person earning £25k, say as a care worker, pays c.£4k in tax. Yet they get £14k in public spending.So they are a large drain on the exchequer.
4.There has been no substitution of non-EU immigrants for EU. No figures exist for EU immigration until 2021. (All the previous estimates were massively undercounted as seen by the fact that 3x the number of EU residents applied for perm residence than were believed to be in the UK in total!)
5.If we were still in the EU we would have unlimited EU migrants arriving uncounted on top of the problem with illegal immigrants.

Last edited 13 days ago by Matt M
j watson
j watson
13 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

Some pretty ropey suggested facts here.
Firstly Non-EU increase greater than EU in country of birth – check the 2021 census details. The most common is not Poland. As we all seem to have plenty of time to commune in cyberspace a couple of minutes actually checking the census details should be absorbable.

Your point that a Care Worker gets £14k in public spending is gibberish. Being a care Worker is not a ‘hand-out’. It’s hard graft (try it out for a few days and you’d know). So why twist it like you have? One assumes it’s partly a deflection strategy from how grateful we actually should be they come here to do these jobs (I’ll predict an irony – you (and myself I suspect if we live long enough) will be v grateful to be cared for by someone born elsewhere in our dotage if the alternative is little to no care. In old age our senses close in and we may not remember this reflection, but let’s hope we do)

As regards if we stayed in EU would it be unlimited – no it wouldn’t if we decided to actually apply all the articles that were available – minimum capital requirements – £30k; all jobs advertised locally first, no job you go home after 3mths, any benefits claimed paid at rate of home country not the UK’s rate etc. Now I daresay many were never entirely aware of these options, or of quite why we never applied them. I suspect we would agree that this largely because Business drunk on cheap labour and the weakening of UK workers bargaining power this gave. I suspect we’d also agree it reduced incentives to properly invest in technology/productivity.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
13 days ago
Reply to  j watson

One of the reasons why I was sceptical as to our political class actually enabling the UK from benefiting from Brexit was precisely because they consistently failed under both Labour and Conservative governments to apply the various remedies to slow EU immigration that you highlighted or to reform our health and social systems to align more with our EU neighbours so that the burden on public services provided by immigration was more satisfactorily distributed.

j watson
j watson
12 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I think the scepticism has some validity, but alot of anti-Free Movement/Brexit supporters were well aware and opted not to draw attention to these options as would undermine the immigration card that was being played in order to try and get to some Singapore on Thames nirvana – which of course was never going to happen.
On a practical level though the issue does link to national ID Card policy, which if such existed and well administered could greatly reduce illegal immigration and allow more of the Articles that were available to limit Free Movement be administered effectively. Herein lay the problem – for many good reasons we didn’t want a move in direction of ID cards. The movement of peoples displaced by war, famine, climate change is not going to abate though. It may bump around but everything points at long term trend increasing. So it may well be we’ll return to this issue at some point.

Matt M
Matt M
12 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Top two foreign born nationalities in the census are Indian and Polish, as I said above.
On tax, I think you misunderstand my point (maybe I didn’t explain it very well). The careworker pays £4k tax. The UK spends £14k per person in public services. The care worker’s kids go to school, she travels on a subsidised train and is protected by the police and goes to the doctor and so on.
She is paying a lot less in tax than she is receiving in public spending. The result is that the country’s tax take can never pay for the increase in supply that the extra demand requires. Result: long waiting lists, too few coppers, packed trains &c.
As to the limits that we could have applied to EU citizens. They are small beer and, I suspect, would be extremely hard to implement (possibly why they never were). The main problems with vast numbers of immigrants are demand on housing, demand on schools and healthcare and downward pressure on wages at the bottom end of society.
I do agree with your last two sentences but i would add that investment in technology/productivity never arrives while cheap labour is readily available.
Start bringing down work visa numbers and business will respond.

Last edited 12 days ago by Matt M
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
10 days ago
Reply to  j watson

..be assured that your downticks are a clear measure of the validity of your contribution.. only crass, bigotted, deluded contributions merit upticks on this platform.. from the dodo class!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
10 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

Why do you insist on treating wages as the only valudq item on that particular balance sheet. You totally forget PRODUCTIVITY! Why? A low wage worker generates probably 5 times his wages in productivity, including not only tax receipts but huge profits for the owners of industry/retail.. How can you be so blind? Is it stupidity, denial, bigotry or what? All perhaps!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
10 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

A narrow and fundamentally flawed assessment.. it’s this kind of bigotted view that has GB as it is today: distortion, denial and xenophobia (it’s really racism but I’m too polite to say).. I earnestly wish you guys could ‘come alive’ and join the C21st; instead of clinging to Rule Britannia and the (very un)glorious days ofthe British Empire. It’s a bit like Egypt clinging to its Pharaonic past or Italy to its Roman Empire or Ancient Greece.. Give it up guys and join the real world..

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
13 days ago

There *are* long-trend declinist forces playing out in the UK suppressing growth, including a yearning on the left to suppress growth in the name of saving the earth, but the depth of the current hellhole we are in, is down to one thing and one thing only: the blowout spending through the pandemic, which Johnson and the Tories panicked themselves into, instead of keeping most of their powder dry, because in truth the population wanted that spending splurge. And Sunak was as much responsible for that splurge as anyone. Those of us saying at the time that the scale and depth of the lockdowns and the money splurges would all have to be paid for eventually, with usurious interest, were shouted down as beancounting heatless jerks. Well, now comes the bill. And the irony for the Tories? They now have beancounter numero duo as the chancellor of beancounter numero uno in place to make, and take, the hit for decisions they themselves made to desperately *not* look like beancounters when the pandemic started – essentially political decisions. They have saved neither lives (in aggregate) nor the economy, nor themselves with their actions. Their biggest crime is to have stunted the development of millions of children and teenagers by shutting schools. They are now, as not-fit-for-purpose as the Labour party. I think the end of the road is fast approaching for both.

Last edited 13 days ago by Prashant Kotak
Roy Mullins
Roy Mullins
13 days ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

How much the tories splurged on covid and ukraine is a matter of debate and done now anyway. But we now have a lot less of the wealth and revenues that we need to pay for a bloated welfare state, net zero etc. Only controlling these expenditures and facilitating growth through incentives such as reduced corporation and other taxes an can save us.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
13 days ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Spot on. The famous 55bn “black hole” is remarkably close to the sum p****d up the wall during the pandemic on a track & trace system that didn’t work – 37bn (how on earth does anyone spend 37bn on an IT system without massive overpayment/corruption?) and pilfered through fraud on the various loan schemes – 17bn (mostly through the spectacularly lax Bounce Back Loans which were offered to all and sundry with virtually zero oversight).
Karma, Rishi.

Last edited 13 days ago by Rocky Martiano
Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
12 days ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Please don’t further disseminate the discredited £37B figure.
https://fullfact.org/health/nhs-test-and-trace-cost/

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
12 days ago

Your link tells me that the two year budget was £37bn and that £13.5bn was spent in Year 1. £13.5bn is still an extraordinary cost for such a project – almost equal to the entire annual budget of the Home Office.
As for the remainder, can you provide an example of any government budget that was not fully spent?

Last edited 12 days ago by Rocky Martiano
chris Barton
chris Barton
13 days ago

What part of “We are Broke” do people not understand? Debased the currency, spent 100’s of billions of money we never had and shut down the economy down for 18 months. This is the bill.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
13 days ago

“…So what can the Tories do to turn around their poll ratings?…”

Um, yeah, are firing squads for the upper echelons of the Conservative Party still allowed in the UK? Asking for a friend.

Last edited 13 days ago by Prashant Kotak
Roy Mullins
Roy Mullins
13 days ago

What is holding us back is the left’s obsession with huge levels of cuddly public services and taxing the rich. Have they heard of the laffer curve and who would want to invest in thus country ?

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
13 days ago
Reply to  Roy Mullins

I read Rishi’s speech referred to in the article and for the most part it is soundly argued but he singularly fails to address the burden placed on business by a wasteful unreformed bureaucracy.

j watson
j watson
13 days ago
Reply to  Roy Mullins

One assumes you temporarily forgot the Tories been in power for 12 years when blaming the left? Bit of a basic mistake that one.
Laffer curve – one can’t entirely dismiss it, but over simplistic. We don’t have a single tax rate and the sole motivation to work hard is not one’s current tax rate. Promotion, career progression etc often play a greater role. Of more importance potentially is better structured wealth taxes to encourage investment in industry rather than bricks & mortar.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
13 days ago
Reply to  j watson

I wouldn’t disagree with you that we need incentives to invest in industry (and productivity in general). But “better structured wealth taxes”? I wasn’t aware we had a wealth tax in the UK.

Last edited 13 days ago by Rocky Martiano
Martin Brumby
Martin Brumby
12 days ago

“A promise to invest more in energy efficiency”?

Very droll.

Every Government for the last 20 years has been “investing” (or more accurately, hosing taxpayer’s and energy users’ money) into energy inefficiency. Witness Potato Ed Miliband’s 2008 uncosted and ludicrous and unachievable “Climate Change Act 2008”, increased to 100% Net Zero by the Witless May, still uncosted, more ludicrous, even less achievable.

polidori redux
polidori redux
13 days ago

Unherd is turning into the same old, same old.

Will Will
Will Will
13 days ago

she began by increasing taxation in the face of an economic crisis“: one of the first things she did was to CUT the top rate of income tax from 83% to 60% in 1980.
As for “rapacious” landlords, they aren’t generally charities, and have been dumped on severely by this faux Tory government for years now. If the Tories really cared about the housing market they wouldn’t have presided over 12 years of low and negative interest rates, increased demand with in the form a rising population, and failure to build new homes.

Last edited 13 days ago by Bill W
Mark Polden
Mark Polden
13 days ago

As a party member the problem is the party grassroots themselves. They are the gerontocracy running the country

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
13 days ago
Reply to  Mark Polden

Correct and I’m one of them!
‘We’ should be denied the vote after 70, unless we can prove we have absolutely exceptional characteristics that might allow us to continue.
This should be reviewed ever three years, just like a driving licence..

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
13 days ago

Why not deny the vote to the young until they prove their exceptional qualities? I am not sure what those exceptional qualities should consist of. An examination in logic and statistics?

j watson
j watson
13 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

One assumes you guys feel you have those ‘exceptional qualities’?

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
12 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I agree: no representation without taxation. Voters should have skin in the game. Unless you are paying taxes, why should you have the right to vote on how tax revenues are spent?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
13 days ago

The way we’re going “being a net taxpayer” is an exceptional characteristic. I agree that only these people should have the vote.

Last edited 13 days ago by Brendan O'Leary
j watson
j watson
12 days ago

Would welcome more details on how you’d actually propose this work in practice, how you’d get it agreed, whether you’ve factored in how you’d change the electoral roll in timely fashion, what timespan you’d apply for net calculations, how much it would cost to oversee, whether you’d exclude pensioners etc. Or is it yet another populist slogan we can all cheer and feel jolly good about in cyberspace but completely disconnected from the practical world?
You see part of the problem in recent years has been this disconnect between populist slogans and the actual necessary hard graft in policy design and implementation, which often will involve some compromises. Unfortunately what then happens is rhetoric butts into reality and the exponent defaults to blaming somebody else for why their nirvana cannot be attained. This pattern keeps repeating itself.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
12 days ago

The Great Reform Acts were an error and Britain never recovered from them….

j watson
j watson
12 days ago

So you’d go back to an electorate of only 500k and all the corrupt boroughs whilst governing a society of 68m? I think you’re in the wrong country and would be happier with Xi and Putin’s Leninist approach. Occasionally one does worry Unherd comments might even be FSB bots,

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
12 days ago

What does one expert from someone who went to Charterhouse?… or should I say ” Charterheouse” to give to modern pronunciation!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
10 days ago

It is well nigh impossible to set out a vision for a country utterly confused and completely in denial. If Joe Brit could only…
1. Admit the the British Empire was largely a massive theft..
2. Admit BE atrocities were massive viz… genocidal massacres, famines and slavery: and
3. Brexit was a monumental con job perpetrated by tax dodgers to hoard their illgotten wealth..

It could then perhaps begin to build a future. After all, while there is national guilt and an obligation for reparation no Brit alive today is guilty of those atrocities.
However, the obscenely rich (as a result of that crass exploitation) do have to return the vast wealth they stole.. again, nothing to do with your average Joe Brit who happens to be skint anyway..
4. An acknowledgement that the disparity between the filthy rich and yer average, struggling, decent and hardworking Brit is also plain as the nose on your face but Joe Brit still feels the need to wring his cap before his ‘betters.. pathetic – look to Mick Lynch on that one!
Ireland is facing up to its dreadful past of church scandals, attacks on innocent victims (IRA et al)! and civil war atrocities.. it’s àpainful but Truth and Reconciliation is qàthe only way forward.. you can put it off but you gotta face up to it all sometime. Otherwise you remain stuck: lost and confused..

Jack Tarr
Jack Tarr
13 days ago

A few suggestions:
a) Introduce a land value tax. This of course would impact rentiers and old money particularly, and would therefore be sound economics (as far as any form of taxation can be). It would also discourage land-banking and using derelict buildings as a store of value.
Make this tax progressive by having a personal allowance for everyone resident in the UK (but not for expats or landlords), so that someone with 5 kids and granny living in the same house in Middlesbrough would pay nothing, but a millionaire yuppy couple living in a Surrey mansion would pay for the priviledge.
b) Housing: No more estates of detached ‘executive homes’ (indentikit noddy boxes) please. There are millions of these, and their design is abysmal – often there is just a few inches between ‘detached’ houses, too small for a ladder to fit, and a way to waste energy and use more construction materials.
Planning law should be reformed to outlaw the routine construction of detached or semi-detached houses. There would be circumstances in which this would not apply, e.g. infill in conservation areas. The city of Bath consists largely of 5-storey buildings containing flats (in the centre), or terraced houses (outskirts). Since Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre it indicates that a higher density of dwellings per hectare need not result in ugliness.