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Is 'My Great Britain Budget Speech' a plan for economic renewal, political suicide or both?

By Tim Montgomerie
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Earlier this week I set out a plan for shock-and-awe Budget tax cuts. I also promised some ideas on growth measures. I set these out in a short film for today's Daily Politics programme:

While it's true that the Government is attempting many solid and important things (schools and welfare reflorm, deficit reduction, elected police chiefs, public sector transparency...) one thing matters more than any other and that's turbocharging the UK economy. One of the lessons of the NHS reforms is that voters won't buy the need for unsettling change if they are not first convinced that there's a problem to fix. I also think there's almost a bigger chance of selling a full monty reform programme than selling a half-hearted one.

Vince Cable was (unfortunately) correct when he suggested the Coalition had no compelling vision beyond deficit reduction. The Daily Politics video was my attempt to produce a first draft. The text I based the video on is pasted below...

"The biggest challenge facing Britain isn’t the deficit. Isn’t the Euro. It’s the rise of China and other new economies. Five years ago China had no hi-speed railways. Today it has more than Europe. It will soon have more than the whole world. Half of all degrees awarded in China, Singapore and Japan are for science and engineering - compared to under a third in Britain. The number of Chinese people registering innovations has risen by 1,000%. It's down by a quarter in Britain.

In the years ahead we will either compete with Brazil, Russia, India and China or many of our children won't have jobs. All of us will see our wages stagnate. If we are to compete I know what we need to do. Tough things. Unpopular things.

We need a new airport in the south east of England. We must replace employment laws that stop firms employing extra workers. We need to pay science teachers more than geography teachers, we need profit-making schools, privatised roads, a retirement age linked to average life expectancy.

I'm told by spin doctors and pollsters that these things are impossible because they are unpopular. But the unpopular thing for a politician can be the right thing for a country. And, you know what, there's no point sending an army into battle with only one weapon or dieting one day and binging the next. We either reform properly or not at all. Today, therefore, I'm announcing that I will enact not one of those unpopular economic reforms - not a few of them - but every single one of them. I want to fix Britain so we have a future as great as our past.

The choice at the next election will be huge. You can take the easy path with Labour. The path that will take this country downhill, towards unemployment, falling incomes and the steady emigration of our most talented people. Or come with me. My Great Britain Plan will be a climb but it will be a climb to more jobs, higher wages and sustained prosperity."

Discussion on the Daily Politics that followed my video:


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