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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
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Conservatives in the last chance saloon

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This week has been another shocking reminder how far adrift today's Conservative Party are from the principles enunciated and implemented by its greatest peacetime leader Margaret Thatcher.

To me personally, this has been dramatically emphasised by the loss of Westminster City Council to the Labour Party. Some thirty years ago as the Finance Chairman I set an annual Community Charge of £195. I am still a Westminster resident and this year when my local tax bill fell through the letter box it was 900% higher than three decades ago. Yes, nine times higher! Inflation in the intervening years amounts to 120%. Obviously, this is an extreme example, but an eight-fold real increase over thirty years in any form of taxation is not acceptable. Quite naturally Labour is now in charge locally with a promise not to further raise local taxes.

Nationally we are on the brink of a serious economic crisis. The Governor of the Bank of England and the Monetary Policy Committee have now revealed the dire economic consequences of the Government's response to the pandemic and its commitment to the big state. Significant monetary tightening will now have to occur. A downward correction in house prices will be a welcome development and bring home ownership more within reach of 'generation rent.'

Government spending as a proportion of annual income has risen to a level not seen since the post-war administration of the socialist Clement Attlee.

When Margaret Thatcher left office having adopted fiscally conservative principles, the national debt had been reduced to some twenty-two percent of gross domestic product. Now national debt is nearly five times higher at around one hundred percent of annual gross domestic product.

Some eighteen percent of this debt is due to our generally botched and authoritarian response to Covid.

Much of the ire for this state of affairs will be directed by Conservative backbenchers at Boris, but my contention is that for the Conservative Party to have any chance of winning a general election in two years' time it is necessary to have a Chancellor of the Exchequer committed to a regime of low personal taxation especially for those on modest incomes. The present incumbent's decision to raise direct taxes on those earning as little as £25,000 per annum displays a lack of economic and political judgement. The Conservatives now appear to show a lack of understanding of the role of incentives in expanding prosperity. There are still literally one or possibly two people sitting on the Conservative benches that have the necessary political and economic judgement to reset Government economic and taxation policy to give their party an outside chance of winning the next general election. Swift action is required before this window closes once and for all. A reset is needed as a matter of urgency since the term 'cost of living crisis' is not adequate to describe the economic malaise into which this government is descending.

It's some forty years since Margaret Thatcher determined that Britain would not relinquish the Falkland Islands. Is there anyone who could possibly believe that she could have been party to the Northern Ireland Protocol which leaves a part of the United Kingdom behind in the European Union without representation.

The Northern Ireland Protocol is not just undermining the economic integrity of the United Kingdom but signposting that Northern Ireland's political future lies with the Republic. Boris must now lance this boil without further delay.

What is more, the very idea that part of the United Kingdom could shortly be jettisoned adds credibility to the Nationalist cause in Scotland.

In short, Boris lives to fight another day but the political and economic storm clouds are darkening not lightening and we will see whether he has the capacity to make the necessary changes in terms of personnel and policies to bring Britain through its biggest crisis of the twenty-first century.

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