Remember Ted Heath’s greatest hits of the 70s?
Riding high in the charts was his ‘prices and incomes policy’. Followed by ‘state subsidies’ and ‘picking the winners’. And who can forget the smash hit ‘Barber boom’ – with the bust on the B side.
Far from being a distant memory, too many Tories today are carrying on as if they were in a Ted Heath tribute band.
Instead of a statutory incomes policy, they are crooning about something called a ‘living wage’. That’s right folks, these retro Tories want us to overturn one of the greatest Thatcherite achievements and undo the free labour market reforms. (Heck, why don’t they go the whole hog, and insist that the living wage be set at £50,000 a year, and we’d all be rich?)
These retro Tories haven’t only ditched the idea of liberalised labour markets. They seem to be losing faith in popular capitalism, too.
Like many Tories in the 70s, they urge an accommodation with trade unions. ‘If only we reached out’, they say. ‘If only we sided with them against those beastly organisations that seek to make profits!’. (Like Tesco or Apple or Skype, beastly profiteers!)
Easy to forget – since they themselves were easily forgotten – there were once plenty of Tories who said much the same – even after Heath himself was forced to recognise that you cannot reason with the unreasonable.
The interests of those who lead the organised labour movement are incompatible with free market capitalism.
Would these back-to-the-70s Tories have preferred if we had not sold off Royal Mail? There are 15,000 Royal Mail workers who applied for extra shares in their business – on top of the £3,000 worth all Royal Mail staff were given – who would disagree.
70s Toryism gave us the Barber boom. Fiscal – and monetary – policy was used to engineer growth. Today’s back-to-the-70s Tories are giving us the Buy to Let boom.
Ted Heath’s government allowed the banks to issue more paper promises than they should have. The current government’s bank reforms have yet to change that.
70s Toryism was into picking winners, with state subsidies for the industries of tomorrow. The technologies of the future that we funded included the gull-winged car and Concorde. Today it is uneconomic wind turbines.
70s Conservatism was constrained in its thinking because the leadership relied on a clique within the Central Policy Review Staff. Today the Conservative leadership seems to draw its ideas from a similarly narrow field.
Like in the 1970s, corporatism has replaced a belief in free markets. Patrician Toryism is in danger of overshadowing the aspirational. A status quo Conservatism is lining up to defend things when what our country so desperately needs is radical change.
It does not have to be this way. Let’s just hope the lights don’t go out before we realise, eh?Tags: 1970s, boom and bust, Concorde, Living wage, nostalgia, picking winners, retro, Tory party, Toryism