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Howard Flight: It is time we talked about Labour's damage to Britain

Flight_howard_2 Howard Flight was MP for Arundel and South Downs between 1997 and 2005, is a former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, and is now chairman of Flight & Partners Recovery Fund.

I had intended to write a piece this month demonstrating the deceit of the GDP growth figures and that in terms of output – rather than incomes – the British economy has scarcely grown at all under the Labour Government; but I am so annoyed that the British people are being denied the decision on the European Constitution (introduced by the back door), that I may get myself into trouble by writing about things we are now not “allowed to say”, in a country which is the Mother of free speech.

Quite simply, I am increasingly struck at how those who do not agree with the mantra of the politically correct elite controlling Britain and much of the media are today being silenced and shut out from the mainstream.  I find, moreover, that when I raise these issues with perfectly normal, respectable and responsible citizens, that they agree with me - but feel silenced, substantially for fear of getting a black mark which might damage their careers (and certainly their eligibility to participate in any Government quangos!)

I will give some examples, by no means exhaustive.

Why the British are essentially hostile to the EU and the project to create a United States of Europe is, on the one hand, because they resent being bullied and not given a say; and on the other hand because the EU structure is inherently undemocratic and implicitly corrupt.  Moreover, the massive body of legislation from the EU is introduced to Britain without any Parliamentary votes – let alone referendums – constitutionally, using the ancient powers of the royal Prerogative. 

The Barons forced Magna Carta on King John and we fought a civil war to secure the principle that nothing should be law of the land without being enacted by both Houses of Parliament – by-passed and ignored with regard to the never ending flow of tedious and often economically damaging legislation coming from the EU.  Britain inherited the ancient Anglo-Saxon concept of power ascending from the people.  Much of Continental Europe inherited the Roman tradition of descending power – power flowing down from above, whether cast in the form of Roman Emperors or the Divine Right of Kings.  Whether pro or agin the proposition that one day Europe might come together as the United States of Europe, British citizens want their say.

At a much more down to earth level, if you want to change your bank, this now requires a nightmare of bureaucracy and obligations to submit utility bills and a legally certified passport copy when 99.99% of British citizens manifestly have no involvement in financing terror or drug money laundering. But we have unaccountable international organisations – the IMF, FATF and others – forcing on our banks, our stock brokers, our accountants, our lawyers and everyone else that might have something to do with our money these tedious and anti-competitive requirements.  If any jurisdiction refuses to require all of this, they are black-listed as a leper allegedly encouraging terrorism and drug finance.  Inevitably, the criminals find ways round these requirements, but our financial institutions are burdened with enormous costs and our citizens with tedious and time consuming hassle.

If any one dares suggest that the emission of CO² gases may not be the most important factor driving climate change, and that it is not altogether clear whether we are heading for global warming or a coming ice age (which was feared previously) - they are branded as unspeakable and irresponsible.  Nigel (Lord) Lawson has produced an excellently argued and presented case for scepticism here where virtually everyone I have encountered who has listened to his arguments has found it impossible not to agree with his case.  But rational public debate of this important territory is suppressed, while untold damage to our economy may be implemented. 

Governments are making the dangerous and undemocratic mistake of muddling together tax avoidance and tax evasion.  As eminent judges and lawyers have rightly opined in the past, every citizen has the right to limit their tax bills within the law (avoidance).  What is wrong is to break the law (evasion).  The biggest danger of muddling the two is that it can lead to giving social acceptability to tax evasion (breaking the law).  The concocted argument for bracketing together tax avoidance and tax evasion is that it is wrong to use the law to escape “what Parliament intended”.  The whole concept here is misguided.  Taxation across society needs broadly to command the acquiescence of those having to pay.  Where it does not do this it is human nature for people to try to find a way around what they see as an unacceptable imposition. 

Turning to immigration, there is resentment particularly amongst the remnants of Labour’s old white working class supporters and a major and costly drain on our health service and education system, as the result of excessive immigration.  Moreover, the dogma of seeking to create a “multi-cultural society” has been a terrible mistake.  In the past, America handled major immigration successfully – essentially by requiring everyone to have a common US education and to become culturally and politically loyal Americans.  But anyone who makes such common sense points runs the risk of being branded a racist - which is ironic, since they include many long settled in this country whose families originally came from the West Indies and the Sub-Continent of India.

Everyone knows that public spending under Labour has got wildly out of control, nearly doubling in cash terms but achieving remarkably little as regards improved output.  Much of the money has gone into large pay increases for those working in the public sector, largely as the result of the political power of the public sector trade unions.  Much of the rest has gone in major, disguised increases in welfare spending.  The real welfare spending figure is in excess of £200 billion per annum if tax credits (netted off tax receipts) having benefit and welfare spending concealed within Scottish and Welsh expenditure are included.  £60 billion is accounted for by state pensions – which are arguably inadequate.   But the balance has risen to circa £150 billion per annum before allowing for the impact of the increase in unemployment resulting from the recession.

This has served to create welfare dependent communities; part of the increased spending has gone to subsidize wages – an unwise economic policy, as we learnt when the same thing happened in the 1820s; and some is being exploited by couples who are not married and thus, potentially, eligible for and claiming, the substantial single parent benefits.  The economic truth is that the UK can no longer afford expenditure on this scale; but does any politician, other than Frank Field, have the courage to say this? 

In more populist territories, did British citizens ever give their consent to the excessive proliferation of speeding cameras on our roads?  Everyone will agree with the proposition that excess speeding should be discouraged as it can cause unnecessary deaths, but what we have ended up with is a massive stealth tax.

Meanwhile even I, who has smoked for nearly 50 years (although still working 70 hours a week), have to agree that smoking is clearly not good for you.  But rather than achieving a reasonable compromise in this territory, we now see thousands of people outside pubs drinking and smoking in the road; and private institutions, such as working men’s clubs, closing down as no smoking facilities are permitted.  Here again, ironically, the elitist Labour Party is bullying its historic grassroot supporters.

My wife and I are blessed with four wonderful children who are sensible, characterful and responsible.  When they were naughty children we had no hesitation in smacking them – as I believe most parents would agree.  In trying to bring up responsible citizens, parents now run the risk, if they use common sense, of being prosecuted.

When I was at school, there were lots of school exchanges to France and Germany as a result of which we not only managed to speak the languages reasonably, but also made friends for life.  Particularly in the state sector, school exchanges have now been virtually abandoned because of the cost and hassle in checking that the host French and German parents are not paedophiles – inherently unlikely where they are representatives of hospitable, family homes.

Finally, on matters constitutional, it is outrageous that the Barnett formula continues to provide nearly twice as much public spending for citizens of Scotland as for citizens of England, where it was supposed to equalise expenditure over the long term.  It is also wrong now that Scotland has its own Parliament responsible for virtually all domestic matters, Scottish MPs still vote on domestic matters relevant to England.  If the Scottish people want independence - on which there should be a referendum – it should be granted to them. 

I could go on, but have probably already condemned myself for saying what most people think.

I am reminded of the old adage: “Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad”.  The time has come for British citizens to assert their rights to free speech and to rebel against the tyranny of the politically correct.  I very much hope the Conservative Party – and Boris Johnson in particular – will give a lead here.


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