Tory prophets of doom

Two Conservative iconoclasts offer pronouncements for the end of 2009, Max Hastings in the FT on Britain and the recession, and Nigel Lawson on Copenhagen, both Tories of different kinds. Both are too lugubrious to be of much use to a party expecting to take office in 2010. Ironically, they remind me of the great fin de regime anti-Tory slogan of 1964 : Thirteen wasted years”. Arch climate change critic Nigel Lawson is at his most supercilious in the Wall Street Journal, his natural home. This piece captures the tone of a man who was so self regarding he actually looked down on Thatcher. I don’t agree with him but as Enoch Powell was, he’s a great read. From Nigel Lawson
“Just one more heave, just one more venue for the great climate-change travelling circus—Mexico City next year—and the job will be done…. Or so we are told. It is, of course, the purest nonsense. The only breakthrough was the political coup for China and India in concluding the anodyne communiqué with the United States behind closed doors, with Brazil and South Africa allowed in the room and Europe left to languish in the cold outside.

Far from achieving a major step forward, Copenhagen—predictably—achieved precisely nothing…
..the outlines of a credible plan B are clear. First and foremost, we must do what mankind has always done, and adapt to whatever changes in temperature may in future arise.. And beyond adaptation, plan B should involve a relatively modest increased government investment in technological research and development—in energy, in adaptation and in geoengineering.”

From Max Hastings
Was that the financial crisis, then? It wasn’t so bad.”
Such a view seems to represent monumental self-delusion. Historians are likely to look back on 2009 as the year in which Britain was confronted by truths of lasting significance. For two decades we have supposed ourselves a successful society. It has been an article of faith that the revolution wrought by Margaret Thatcher transformed a sclerotic, declining nation into a dynamic and robustly prosperous one. We decided that we manage our affairs better than our European partners do theirs.
The events of the past 18 months suggest otherwise. Britain is emerging from the crisis weaker than other developed economies, and notably more vulnerable than Germany and France. I

  • Drumlins Rock

    Im with Nigel, not with Max,
    I’m still a bit of a sceptic and becoming more so, people are often quick to contrast science with religion but science in many ways is following Christianity by becoming part of “the system” from being a treat to the powers that be to becoming one of the pillars, so when one dogma is accepted but later found suspect instead of rejecting it everything else is adapted to prop it up. Thats the road the Church went down, and there seems to be increasing evidenct science is folling suit.
    As for UK plc. of course we think we are better than the French or Germans, have done for a thousand years, and times its true times its not, strange to say but the after effects of the war are still with us, the Cold War that is, the reintegration of eastern europe is still rippling across the continent 20 yrs on, its still too soon to tell if anyone has took a serious injury from the latest crash but remember the big 3 in europe are relatively stable, but Germany and France are tied in with several economies that are still reeling, have no idea how that ties in.

  • Two very interesting pieces from two very learned men.

    Lawson is bang on the money. He obviously remains open-minded about the causes of climate change. He is absolutely right to criticise the current international politics on the environment. Some realism about the political and economic priorities of the other countries should lead us into plan B, once we have all woken up. Plan B requires us to focus on protecting our lands from the increasing hazards of climate change. I believe that floods will be the biggest problem for Britain in the near future.

    Max Hastings does not mention it directly, but the lack of a strong manufacturing industrial base like that of Germany does make it more difficult for our country to get back our economic strength. I agree with what he says in terms of the scale of the task facing David Cameron.

    He compares Cameron’s task with that faced by Margaret Thatcher’s admininstration. He points to the fact that there a Falklands war and an extremely left wing labour party to help Mrs. Thatcher win a second term.

    Nobody knew there would be a Falklands war in 1979 and who knows what political luck may bless David Cameron. I am not personally convinced that the Falklands war was as decisive to Mrs. Thatcher’s 1983 victory as has been made out by many political historians. Before the Falklands war, the opinion polls were turning in the Conservatives favour as the perception grew that Mrs. Thatcher’s very strong economic medicine was actually beginning to work in terms of controlling inflation and breaking restrictive practices (such as trade union power).

    I agree with Max Hastings that in all likelihood, political greatness will be required if David Cameron is to lead the country through to winning a second term.

  • Compare and contrast:

    Seymour Major @ 12:59 PM:

    I am not personally convinced that the Falklands war was as decisive to Mrs. Thatcher’s 1983 victory as has been made out by many political historians. Before the Falklands war, the opinion polls were turning in the Conservatives favour … [sic]

    Iain Duncan Smith MP, former Tory Leader: (as reported by The Daily Telegraph):

    He said that if Denis Healey, the Labour Chancellor, had not done “the heavy lifting” and gone to the International Monetary Fund in 1978 then Mrs Thatcher would have only lasted one term in Number 10.
    He said: “She would have been out in 1983. Getting the economy back to a point where it was profitable and we had some sort of enterprise was [vital].
    “But yes, what happened next was in some ways [unfortunate]. We forgot that, while the economy was moving on, society itself was not really ready for this. Swathes of the population got left behind in the process …The gap between the bottom socio-economic group and the rest started to grow, and it’s grown ever since.

    I repeatedly have to remind folk that “The lady’s not for turning” speech was made to the Tory Party Conference, who were disenchanted and desperate for a change in policy. In 1981-2 Thatcher was easily the most unpopular PM in polling history: a December ’81 Gallup had a 70+% disapproval rate: that was beaten by surveys over the first weekend of April ’82. The crisis debate of Saturday 3 April, 1982, was crudely truncated by the Tory Whips: just three hours — not the action of a confident Government. Only Michael Foot’s excessive decency, Galtieri’s Junta and 907 deaths saved her from defenestration by her own “men in grey suits”.

    Please let us not rewrite history.

  • That great economic military historian, Max Hastings is occasionally so far off-base as to be risible. As here.

    Where is the evidence that:

    Britain is emerging from the crisis weaker than other developed economies, and notably more vulnerable than Germany and France?

    The £ sterling is stronger now than twelve months ago. British unemployment, bad as it is 7.9%, is lower than Germany (9.1%) or France (8.3%). As David Smith, in yesterday’s Sunday Times [The Sunday Times!], counting a number of blessings, ended:

    Best of all is the job market. Employers and employees have shown huge flexibility to get through this recession. Wage freezes, cuts and shorter working weeks mean unemployment has fallen by only a third of what it was reasonable to expect.

    The government deserves a little credit for its labour-market guarantees. Aggressively expansionist monetary policy and modest expansionary fiscal policy have helped.

    Dontcha just lurve that “modest” in the current context?Smith concludes:

    … it is very difficult for Britain not to have a recovery if the world economy is growing. The UK is an open market and 3% global growth next year, which is what the IMF expects, will lift Britain.

    The CBI, today, reckons that the UK is out of recession.

    Meanwhile, the Bank of England is cannily maintaining a devalued £: to the growing annoyance of the continental EU big boys (as William Keegan in yesterday’s Observer).

    Yet Hastings says it is not so, and, sure, Hastings is an honourable man.