Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
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.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

Pro Birmingham And Contra HMG


Brum is bust, but the problem is not that the council is 'socialist'; the problem is that the national government is not 'conservative.'

When did the soi-disant Conservative Party last show a deep interest in the security and welfare of the nation as a whole?

For example, it's estimated that the UK's spending on defence for Ukraine totals £4.6 billion over 2022-2023. This threatens to increase the possibility of World War Three - in fact Ukraine's security chief claims it has already begun. Our contribution to that conflict so far is enough to wipe out Birmingham's debts (£2.1 bn) twice over - liberating £89 million p.a. in interest payments.

If you want to think bigger, consider HS2, whose cost was guessed last February at £72 - £98 bn. Some years ago the House of Lords concluded (paras 308-309) that 'investing in transport infrastructure does not necessarily lead to economic growth' and that 'London was likely to be the biggest beneficiary.' If the seat of government shifted around the country regularly perhaps London would not be the nation's spoiled child.

Conservative Home's Local Government Editor Harry Phibbs notes that 'Councils are under a legal obligation to set balanced budgets. They are not allowed to run deficits.' If only the same could be said for UK plc - the ability to borrow almost without limit is the source of the Executive's overweening power, with consequent damage to our economy and democratic controls. When did the Opposition last shout 'we can't afford it!' to some fresh proposal to burn our money?

Birmingham Council's difficulties stem not from drink-fuelled fact-finding jollies but from legal obligations. The current crisis largely arises from an equal pay judgment by an employment tribunal. Are we to abolish the 2010 Equality Act?

Yes, Birmingham spends money on 'Equality, Diversity and Inclusion' - to meet duties and targets set for it as for other authorities and employers. What Conservatives have the nerve to challenge such issues and risk political defenestration? At a local level and in commercial organisations one risks career death and social ostracism merely to question these principles, while we get tied up in quota-ism and face a plethora of potential legal actions. 'Let justice be done though the heavens fall' is a high-minded maxim and also professionally convenient for its practitioners.

Mr Phibbs mentions children in care and how much they cost - £100k pa, he says. As it happens I worked for a time in a residential children's home, years ago, and even then the accommodation, the necessary three-shift system etc cost about double that. There are Conservative questions arising: for example I heard of a rich alcoholic who owned a number of rental properties and whose children were taken into care one after another; nobody seems to have had the power to make him pay for the care expenses, which might have sobered him up in short order.

Looked After Children are hugely expensive in other ways and for much longer than their time in care. Their emotional damage cripples their academic learning and makes them far more likely to have a range of life problems including addiction, self-harm and spells in jail. Adoption and fostering sound like good solutions but taking in one of these poor children could turn out to be a Trojan Horse for every kind of problem including false accusations of abuse.

Many unloved children go on to try creating what they never had themselves, a happy family, even though their experience has not given them the emotional resilience they need to raise their own properly. Social workers will act as advocates for them in terms of resource provision - a bigger house to cope with a growing brood, a car to take their offspring to school, to a Pupil Referral Unit if excluded, a special school if diagnosed with a high degree of need - but nobody says they cannot have any more children. Only the rich and the indigent can afford large families.

What is the Conservative approach to the family? Again, many on the right will duck their heads rather than face mass outrage if they try to tackle the frogspawn pattern of British parenting.

Then there is the statutory responsibility for those threatened with homelessness (including victims of domestic abuse.) Added to that is the Government's failure to stem illegal migration - and to stop it at source by qualifying our commitments re asylum seekers under The European Convention of Human Rights which has proved such a beanfeast for lawyers. Metropolitan authorities are a magnet for the poor and needy, who do not flock to the stockbroker belt. If Birmingham sold all its unused garages for housing development the new homes might attract extra Council Taxpayers but might equally be filled by overspill from South Coast hotels and Dorset's answer to our nineteenth century prison hulks.

And what inspires a Conservative Government to permit far larger numbers of legal migrants? Does it know the differences between GDP, GDP-per-capita and average earnings? It might learn from the Republic of Ireland, whose tax haven attractions have given it a GDP-per-capita twice that of Brexit Britain yet whose citizens earn less on average than ours. Businesses are shutting all over the place while councils are trying to provide for their people. Are these really the right conditions for unrestricted net immigration?

Conservatism is not limited to Conservatives (who latterly seem to have sold out to Blairism.) Many of the 1945 Labour Government had a background in local authorities and knew to look out for abuses, so that when Labour started to build housing the tenants were carefully selected so that they would look after their lovely new homes. The Friendly Societies of the nineteenth century would regularly review members on sick pay to check for malingering - as they still do. Social justice was a combination of rights and responsibilities.

If we wish to set the country back on course - to conserve society and make it run well - we should look beyond Birmingham's Victoria Square head office and towards Westminster, the fount and origin of our slack-handed mismanagement.

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Director : Robert Oulds
Tel: 020 7287 4414
Chairman: Barry Legg
The Bruges Group
246 Linen Hall, 162-168 Regent Street
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Founder President :
The Rt Hon. the Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven LG, OM, FRS 
Vice-President : The Rt Hon. the Lord Lamont of Lerwick,
Chairman: Barry Legg
Director : Robert Oulds MA, FRSA
Washington D.C. Representative : John O'Sullivan CBE
Founder Chairman : Lord Harris of High Cross
Head of Media: Jack Soames