Easing money

When the commentariat  complain so bitterly, Liz Truss must have done something right. It felt hollow telling voters that the Conservatives are the low-tax party – like Augustine praying ‘Make me chaste, but not yet!’ Maybe it can become a reality.

Tax is a harmful drag, like driving with the handbrake on. It is follows from allowing the swollen state, and the justification for keeping it at eye-watering levels has been the needs of the swollen state. The objection to reducing the burden has been that borrowing must soar, and that it true, unless the spending is slashed.

Tax is theft from my pocket, so every penny imposition must be justified or it must come off. Consequently, every penny of government spending is also theft from my pocket and that of my children, so every penny must be not only justified but necessary. One can argue for the benefit of any spending, but the necessity is doubtful.

The lowering of tax and a reduction in inflation will allow the economy to grow and to recoup much of the tax revenue lost, but not all of it.  The Laffer curve is not a smooth, mathematical equation. Even with that growth, spending must be slashed from its Brownite hugeness. Tinkering is not enough – necessary, yes, but not enough. The courage to cut tax in the face of warnings is one thing, but is there, a year and a half from a general election, the courage to slash and burn? It is needed.  (Cut the southern counties anyway. We have enough here to keep going.)

It is as if the Blair-Brown era is still with us.  It has taken 12 years and four PMs to remove Gordon Brown’s malicious top-rate tax bracket. What on earth did all those nominally Conservative parliaments think they were doing?

The political fall-out is to be expected – oppositions oppose, as they must: they have no duty to be coherent but they are duty-bound to shine line in the cracks, and soaring debt just as borrowing rates are at their highest is a massive crack.

Less respectable is the jeering over cutting the top tax rate – it is pure class-war rhetoric.  Effective though. There is a prevalent superstitious belief that when someone gets richer it must make someone else poorer. It is that superstition that is the great political challenge now.

If the economy revives, if inflation falls and the war in the East is stilled, then Liz Truss may survive the coming election. If not, a new team will barge in and wreck all that has been done. No – all that should have been done and which is just beginning to be done twelve years late.

In the meantime, cut and cut again: spending, bureaucracy and taxes too.

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Let us sit upon the ground

There was in former days a bell in Westminster whose tone was so mournful that they say it soured all the milk in the town. It tolled to mark the death of a king. The bells of Westminster today tolled out slowly.

There is more to pageant than theatre, where it demonstrates deep reality. Here was the mourning for a Queen universally loved by all honest people, and the countless multitudes gathered in one accord showed more than a dumb-show. Thousands of soldiers and sailors marching as one, flawlessly, with barely a command needed to be heard, the bright scarlet and plumes of former days displayed because they were needed, and to such precision not arrayed for war but devotion, would not have been possible in a free nation without the unity it displayed.

One can have, in unhappier nations, a display to hide a tottering state behind a moment of glittering swords, but they are of necessity a shallow facade. Here was something bigger, more magnificent, more perfect, and no penny-tyrant could achieve this. It was not a show to blind the eyes but to bring all this together, from state, Commonwealth, church and the armies of the realms, and the unbidden crowds lining the way to bow their heads, it was a demonstration to give a picture of the larger unity of devotion.

We were reminded too, if we thought we could withdraw within our own seas, that the Queen looked further beyond, as should our nation – the procession away from the service was led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, with Australian and New Zealand soldiers following. All had lost their sovereign and all could show their mutual unity than mere thousands of miles of ocean should not sunder.

There were less happy times, in this land as there are still in others. Yet even in the happiest of kingdoms, the sovereign is not imortal. The Persians may have cried ‘May the King live forver!’ but they knew it was impossible. In that ultimate place, all lie equal, though the love left behind does not.

And nothing can we call our own but death
And that small model of the barren earth
Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;

There are no kings now as unhappy as those which haunted Richard II, knowing the deadly nature of the hollow crown that rounds the mortal temple of a king, in his age, not ours. While the crown no longer temps death, it cannot ultimately hold it back. Then we all mourn for the whole nation is bereft.

The bell which soured the milk is no longer there – it was tumbled centuries ago – but the solemn procession passed the site of the belfry where the Middlesex Guildhall stands today, and other bells tolled, with more hope somehow that they can sound happier days.

Today though, let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings.

The Age turns

They will queue for days. I will not, but I respect them for doing so. We loved our Queen and felt we were loved in turn, for all our faults. The queue is a tribute of love.

This is the turning of the ages. It passes in quiet peace, for all the trumpets  and tabards and gun-salutes that herald that we are now the new Caroleans, the kingdom stands and queues quietly, grieving a loss before we celebrate.

When the first Elizabeth died it was very different. As she sickened the avaricious powers of Europe licked their lips at the thought of her heirless throne. The Privy Council and the Earls were at daggers-drawn in case one or the other betrayed the settled succession of Protestant King James, and though they need not have feared each others’ intentions, they did not trust.

Carey was ahorse within the hour of Gloriana’s last breath, in the early hours of that grim Thursday morning: he spurred his horse from Richmond, and when detained in London he slipped the guard at 9 in the morning; was in Doncaster by nightfall; in the Borders by the Friday evening, ordering that the King be proclaimed in the towns of Northumberland; then off again and as the King had just retired in Edinburgh on Saturday, Carey greeted him as King of England and Ireland. They had flair in those days, long before email.

Now, we do not break into threats of war or chaos. Hobbes observed that if there were no law of succession then the whole common-wealth would dissolve at the death of the sovereign, so we have a settled path, and bless the new King for that, as we mourn our loss.

We do mourn. She was the mother of the nation, and of the nations across the Commonwealth, and it does feel like the loss of ones own mother. The world is not the same now as it was when we lay down a week ago. Americans do not understand (but they also do not understand the way we pity them for their own failing system). We understand – it is at tribal, natural to the essence of mankind.

We step into a new Carolean Age, changed in ourselves. There will be new horizons in the new age. Let us first mourn the age taken from us.

Elizabeth the Great

Numb. An age has ended that felt as if it would be with us forever, but could never be. Each tribute I could pay to Her Late Majesty will have been said many times by others – sentiments so repeated as to sound like clichés but no less true and heartfelt for that. She was loved deeply by all, and I pray that she knew she was loved.

A lifetime of unswerving service is concluded.

We will often in these days be reminded of the speech which the twenty-one year old Princess Elizabeth made in Cape Town, dedicating her life be it long or short, to the service of her people. Many a speech have we heard from politicians entering office pledging impossible service only to disappoint, but the young Queen kept her word tirelessly, without pause or deviation, and indeed with more vigour than her words could express. Even in her last days she was performing with a smile her heavy constitutional duties, appointing her fifteen and final Prime Minister.

The kingdom and the whole world have changed utterly in the past 70 years, bewilderingly from the coal-smoked, diesel-fired, Imperial, deferential, war-shattered world of  1952 to the world we find ourselves amongst in 2022;  a journey of excitement, fear, many, many false starts and failures and final triumphs, but one constant thread remained with us: Queen Elizabeth II.

The Queen was all we knew – all of us except those over 70 have been born and grown up all our lives with one mother of the nation over us.  We have not imagined there could be any other sovereign. This morning looking outside the window, the country looks different somehow. I tread uncertain streets. I have seen neighbours weeping in the street – neighbours who just a few months ago were celebrating and decking their houses with bunting for the Jubilee, but suddenly the jubilation has ceased and turned to mourning.

Now the world passes from the New Elizabethan Age, to an unfamiliar New Caroline Age.

What should a King do? To pray perhaps as Elisha did as his master was reaching his end: “And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” As any portion of the spirit of our late Queen rests upon the King, it is a glorious gift. We know too he will pray like Solomon for the gift of wisdom: “give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

We mourn as the age passes, but a new age begins.


The Truss issue

She did it, and is in place, and with a new Cabinet team. It will take more than a mop and bucket to clear the blood on the carpet: gallons of it.

It is looking good so far – a pause to the Online Safety Bill and the Bill of Rights Bill; both measures robustly criticised here. (Both Truss and Sunak attacked Nadine Dorries’s Online Safety Bill in their leadership debates, so her resignation was not unexpected.) In the Commons, the nervy Paisley schoolgirl was gone, and we saw a confident performance, with no mention of cheese or pork markets.

When her predecessor stepped at into office, I wrote a post (“Boris the chosen one”) with a number of  observations, including the tribute he received from Toby Young, another journalist and achiever, who had headlined his piece “Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man”, and the same quote appeared, with one necessary change, about Liz Truss in the Mail yesterday.

I also wrote and a list of predictions, which were all borne out in time.  I can repeat much of that here about Mrs O’Leary:

Some things we can be pretty sure of:

  1. She will surprise her opponents;
  2. She will disappoint and frustrate her supporters;
  3. A great many MPs will be drawn from the backbenches to fill the shoes of those who cannot hack it;
  4. The coming men will themselves surprise their enemies and disappoint and frustrate their supporters;
  5. Someone will start a cry of ‘betrayal’.

When there is a change at the top, political commentators will project all their own hopes and fears on the new PM and declare in all solemnity that there is only one way to go on X, Y or Z, and claim to understand exactly what is in the mind of the new PM, which is surprisingly exactly what is in the commentator’s own mind, and they will be shocked, and convinced of an establishment plot, when it does not turn out so.

See also