John Longworth was the Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce; he was also an MEP and co-Chairman of Leave Means Leave.
A great problem with many politicians and most civil servants is that they don't understand business. The reverse is probably also true. The enterprise economy is alien to the political class and they tend to think that it is at the very least dodgy and very likely irrelevant to their agenda.
The fact that it makes everything else possible because it is the wealth creator, seems to escape them. It doesn't matter which government it is, or of what hue, few in power and even fewer in Whitehall actually get it. The latest mini budget is no exception. I can see it in my minds eye. Treasury Mandarins, faced with the horrific prospect of there being no instructions from Brussels, no policy frameworks to follow, in-fact facing the prospect of actually being held accountable for decisions, flapping around as to what to do in the realisation of a post Brexit, post COVID world. They are at a loss as to what Sunak's umpteenth budget should look like?
Then comes the eureka moment. They go to the dusty archives to discover what they did the last time we were an independent country, still facing a huge war debt coupled with a ruinous social programme deficit. They come across a file marked 'Harold Wilson'.
Not only does it contain passages on how to spend enormous amounts of taxpayers money without a second thought, but also how to carelessly devalue the currency, introduce inflation and, bingo, a catchy upbeat bit of spin called the "white heat of technology" to give hope for a better future, now renamed as glowing green technology backed by green investment. A bit like kryptonite but without a superman.
Problem solved and Sunak is catapulted back to the future. I think not. The budget had more in common with a socialist one from the 1960s than the super growth boosting economy which our new found post Brexit freedoms and the COVID crisis demands.
Apart from hammering British business with more tax - I say "British" for of course foreign multinationals avoid corporation tax and thus trade at an unfair advantage to the domestic competitors - Sunak also squeezed consumption by freezing personal allowances.
Furthermore he fell into the trap of many city-orientated Chancellors, those who see most things through the lens of PE/VC and the banks, by ignoring the backbone of the enterprise economy, family owned and/or run businesses up and down the country.
Except in respect of the super investment allowance, Rishi also ignored a sector bigger than banks and financial services combined, that is manufacturing. It is that sector which many in the bubble think is in decline and all but disappeared. Far from it. It is the part of the economy which must be boosted if we wish to improve productivity, since it provides the greatest bang for buck, with only AI promising the same ratio for services. It is that sector which will address the balance payments deficit and it is essential that manufacturing is boosted if the economy is to be "levelled up", re-balanced towards the regions.
Rather like the automaton character from the past, "Max Headroom", Rishi extended the lavish spending on furlough to provide, you guessed it, headroom - "in case things happen" he said in answer to a question. If ever there were an invitation to speculate that another variant of COVID will be found to frighten "Whittyless" what our technocratic masters now clearly consider to be the "plebs", it is the extension of furlough.
No doubt they will suggest that the said new variant is more infectious, more dangerous, and more resistant, only to be told later "after research" that it was none of those things - as indeed is the norm for viruses.
Friends say to me that when lockdown is mentioned I see the red mist. I reply that it is a particular form of red mist, namely "Commu-mist" , since this is what our country appears to be transmogrifying into. I am sure that many who voted for Brexit did not do so in order to have an undemocratic and foreign, technocratic dictatorship replaced by a domestic one.
Paternalist rulers and well meaning technocrats are dictators by another name. The difference between communist dictatorship and capitalist, democratic freedom (for all its faults) is the difference between North and South Korea. There is a very simple formula that the Government should now adopt to defeat a post crisis slump and to address the debt pile.
Have courage. Free up the private sector from red tape and tax, encourage enterprise and wealth creators, go for super growth to pay down the debt. Never lock down again. Restore Parliament, freedom and democracy. Government has a role but do not see everything through the prism of the state.