By John Longworth.

When I was growing up in the north of England there was a common phrase, people who wanted to be believed or taken seriously would say “watch my lips” and the customary response would be “how can I when you are talking through your ar**”.

It is a common problem for politicians.

The Conservative government failed to deliver on many of its manifesto commitments. It doesn’t matter whether people read or pay attention to manifestos, it is those commitments on which the commentary and rhetoric of the campaigns are based and on which promises are made.

Perhaps it was ever thus, but it seems to me that casual misinformation by politicians has become much more the norm in the second half of my life, than it was in the first.

This may have reached its zenith during the run up to the Brexit referendum when all the political parties, but especially the Cameron/Osborne administration, participated in “project fear” which promulgated ideas such as that a Brexit vote would lead to:

  • Half a million more unemployed – the opposite was true
  • The likelihood of World War 3 – more a matter for Messrs Putin and Xi
  • There would be rampant inflation and there would be mass food shortages – eventually created temporarily by Covid Lockdown and Net Zero madness
  • It would encourage super Gonorrhoea.

Yes, that and many other untruths also supported by institutions such as the BoE, IMF and OBR.

One BBC producer even suggested to me, in all seriousness, that there would be no fisheries dividend since the fish would likely swim away after Brexit.

In fact the British economy has outperformed major eu economies, despite that Remoaner politicians have done everything possible to frustrate policies which take advantage of Brexit and therefore the democratic will of the people.

In fact the British economy has outperformed major eu economies, despite that Remoaner politicians have done everything possible to frustrate policies which take advantage of Brexit and therefore the democratic will of the people.

It was the business damaging and outrageous absurdity of project fear that persuaded me to participate in a radio broadcast and coin the phrases that there would next be claimed by the agriculture dept that a plague of locusts would descend, by the health dept a plague of boils would appear and by the Met Office it would rain for a hundred years, so outrageous was project fear.

It also caused me to put the record straight and resign as head of the British Chambers of Commerce to campaign for the truth of Brexit. But that is another story.

It is really important for business, the economy, wealth creation and our prosperity on which everything else depends, that there is political integrity. That plans are set out clearly and pursued consistently.

In this current election campaign the Conservatives want us to believe they will cut taxes, stimulate the economy and control our borders and yet the PM and Mr Hunt appear to have cut and run “before things start to go wrong”. They have delivered for the economy the one thing over which they have limited influence, that is inflation.

For their part Messrs Starmer and Reeves are at pains to tell us that nothing will change much, in which case what is the point of switching?

Doublespeak abounds. We are told by Ms Reeves that income tax and NI will not be increased. But she has said nothing on business taxes, vital to investment and economic growth, nor in relation to tax thresholds or any other potential stealth taxes . The greatest disincentive to extra work and effort, Gordon Brown’s super tax at a marginal rate of 60% for example, should be abolished.

Her answer to growth is one of the very things which is a drag on growth, Net Zero. Every bit of green investment, every megawatt generated costs the tax payer and the consumer extra money, sucking growth out of the economy while we merrily pay over the odds to import what is abundant under our feet, under the North Sea and now apparently under our Antarctic territory ; gas and oil. Abundant wealth to create a real national wealth fund. Meanwhile China and India march on and Britain languishes as the 28th wealthiest in the world in GDP per capita.

Mr Starmer who has been the spinning jenny of about facing on both policies and people, says that he will increase defence spending when the economy allows, which under his current policies will be never.

Mr Starmer who has been the spinning jenny of about facing on both policies and people, says that he will increase defence spending when the economy allows, which under his current policies will be never.

Starmer says he will commission a security review covering migration, defence and policing. But what are the electorate to make of that? It could conclude no increase in defence, no reduction in the 2.2 million migrants that have come to Britain in the last two years and no toughening up of policing. It is less of a promise, more of Sir Humphrey kicking the issue into the long grass.

The only formal promise is that there will be a raft of employment law: dragging down enterprise destroying the gig economy, making it easier for the shirkers, the lazy, the good for nothings to hold their employers to ransom and thus encouraging employers not to employ, not to invest and not to grow. Ironically, it might have the effect of boosting the use of AI, robotics and lead to productivity improvement in those industries that can make use of this. The unions should be careful what they wish for.

As an entrepreneurial group the Independent Business Network knows that fundamental to all else is economic growth which flows from the incentive to take risks, inventiveness, investment and hard work. On this, all else depends – including the NHS, defence and security, employment and public sector pensions. What we want is for politicians to tell us what their plans are in order to enable family owned or run businesses, 85% of British businesses, to deliver and for politicians to stick to those plans, honestly and openly. On this depends the future of our country and the prosperity of our people.

John Longworth is an entrepreneur, businessman, Chairman of the Independent Business Network of family businesses and a former MEP.


Photo ©UK Parliament/Maria Unger

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