Matt Snape

Rishi Sunak Was a Worse Chancellor Than Gordon Brown

2020 was awful and most people would agree that they never want to experience that year’s events ever again. For Rishi Sunak, though, it was the highlight of his career as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

He was smooth and slick during those COVID press conferences and he just presided over the furlough scheme that ensured people could live off government money comfortably whilst the nation was locked down. Sunak quickly became regarded as future leadership material and those must have been the glory days of his career. 2020 was a nightmare for ‘ordinary’ people, but for Sunak, it was the start of a promising future.

But a week is a long time in politics. Things have quickly changed for this Tory hopeful; he stabbed Boris in the back recently and put himself forward to replace his former boss as Prime Minister. In fact, it is somewhat laughable that Sunak claims he would ‘govern like Thatcher.’ But that is because many of us who remember his time as Chancellor were not so fooled by the way the media portrayed his handling of the Government’s response to COVID. The price of lockdown is becoming all too clear now, and Sunak should be remembered as a Chancellor who was worse than Gordon Brown.

This comparison may not seem fair to some readers. Brown was Chancellor during an economic boom, and he occupied the role for ten years. Yet Brown also made terrible decisions that failed to prepare us for 2008’s events like selling our gold, failing to build enough homes, and ruining the UK’s pension system. As Tejvan Pettinger explained for Economics Help, the last Labour government made the mistake of running a budget deficit of 3 per cent towards the end of the 1997-2007 boom under Blair. If Labour had reduced public debt further, this would have given them more room for manoeuvre during the 2008-12 financial crisis.

In the Conservative Party, many Tory members and MPs make the mistake of thinking the 2008 recession was caused by Labour’s ‘reckless borrowing.’ Though it was an argument I supported during my early days of political activism, Brown did nothing in hindsight to cause the global housing collapse; that was caused by the irresponsible housing policy of the Clinton administration, and the consequences of subprime borrowing spread throughout the rest of the world as the global economy is hugely interconnected.

But did the ‘Conservative’ Party’s economic policies help cushion the blow of the Great Recession? Pettinger’s piece explains how borrowing levels actually got worse once the Tories gained power in 2010 onwards. That hardly sounds fiscally conservative, does it? View Pettinger’s article here if you do not believe me.

However, Sunak’s record no doubt makes Brown blush. Government borrowing during the 2020/21 fiscal year was predicted to hit around 400 billion pounds, the equivalent of between 17-20 per cent GDP, well above its 10 per cent peak at the height of the global financial crisis (which was when Brown was Prime Minister).

Of course, Sunak would argue his decisions were necessary to finance Britain’s lockdown during a global pandemic. Nonetheless, John Hopkins University found that global lockdowns failed to prevent the spread of COVID and recommended that they should not be used as an instrument to tackle pandemics in the future. Even The Daily Telegraph was reporting in August 2020 that lockdown itself killed more people than COVID. With stories now surfacing of children who failed to receive support from social services during lockdown, and people having missed cancer appointments in 2020-21, it is apparent that locking down the country, and the world, was a deadly, self-inflicted mistake.

Sweden and Florida are two useful case studies for parts of the world that did not lock themselves down and still tackled the spread of COVID. Sweden’s COVID death rate currently stands at 19,144, and though its population is smaller than the UK’s, which locked down hard, they were praised for not locking down by mainstream outlets like Germany’s DW, despite being a nation that is 88 per cent urbanised, but then again Britain’s urbanisation numbers are very similar. Sweden’s leading epidemiologist, Anders Tagnell, argued his country’s approach to the coronavirus should be based on evidence, and there was none to prove that lockdowns were working. That we will come to later. 

Florida’s infection levels, meanwhile, were no different to California’s, which locked down hard, and now the state has been ranked as one of the best when it came to handling the pandemic, according to The Committee To Unleash Prosperity. In fact, Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis, recently said his state’s economy is experiencing a record surplus. This shows Sunak and Boris did not have to fund an economically catastrophic lockdown to tackle the coronavirus; they chose to go down this path.

In Brown’s defence, he had no control over America’s subprime housing bubble exploding, which wrecked the former Labour Chancellor’s budget plans, though he should have been more financially prudent in anticipation of a crash. That is his only mistake.

And now, Britain is literally paying the price for Sunak’s record borrowing. Sure, the unemployment rate currently stands at 3.8 per cent, one of the lowest rates since 1974, but that does not help those on low incomes in the face of surging inflation and high interest rates.

Interest rates were at a record low during the height of the pandemic in 2020, and as Norton Finance explains, when interest rates decrease, there’s an increase in borrowing. The Bank of England has a 2 per cent inflation target (a rule set by Gordon Brown, funnily enough), yet it has now exceeded 9.1 per cent. This means interest rates will have to rise to levels not seen since the 1980s to bring inflationary levels back down, which affects small businesses with large loans and provides consumers with less discretionary income, both of which will harm the economy in the short-term at least. Inflation itself has a huge impact on consumer spending levels, many of which are already being felt with surging prices in shops, etc.

Under New Labour, inflation hit 1.9 per cent in 2005, just below Brown’s target, and this was the highest level it got to before the crash. As expected during a recession, inflation climbed to 3.99 per cent in Britain during the 2008 crisis, but that is still far lower than it is now.

It pains me as a former Conservative Party member to write that a Tory Chancellor did a worse job at handling the economy in two years than a former Labour Chancellor who was in office for ten years did. However, as the Conservatives look to the future, they need to regain their reputation for economic prudence. That has been destroyed by Sunak’s financing of Boris’s overreaction to COVID. Sunak should not only be remembered as a worse Chancellor than Brown, but he should be regarded as the worst Chancellor in history in years to come.

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Kemi Badenoch has changed the nature of Tory leadership contests forever

Many British conservatives look at America’s Republican Party with envy. They have a slate of talented potential candidates for the 2024 US general election, and what with increasing numbers of Hispanics and black Americans voting for the GOP, they are likely to triumph in this year’s midterm elections in the face of a crumbling Biden administration that has pandered to the left over trans and cultural issues. They are also confronting many other problems that have started to destroy America’s self-confidence such as critical race theory and Black Lives Matter. It is a good time to be an American conservative right now.

Compared to the Republicans, the British Conservative Party is like the black sheep of the Western conservative family. Anyone who did their research on Boris Johnson before he gained the highest office in the land, such as me, knew his time as prime minister would be short and full of scandal. Those who knew this Conservative leadership race was inevitable suspected that the selection of candidates to replace Boris would be underwhelming. But there was one person who changed this year’s Tory leadership election: Kemi Badenoch.

It was always unlikely that she was going to win. Kemi was an equalities minister, an unknown government position. Her profile was quite low before she entered the race. I have no doubt that she wanted to win the Tory leadership contest and implement the changes she talked about. However, arrogant Tory MPs thought they knew best and eliminated her. The truth is that she was too radical for them. Regardless, she has transformed Conservative leadership races forever.

The reason why I made a reference to the culture wars the Republicans are fighting in the US above is because the UK is facing the same issue, and whilst Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak were clashing over the best way to generate growth, Kemi was the only candidate to discuss the impact of political correctness on Britain. As Louise Perry wrote for The New Statesman, she is a black woman from Nigeria who is resistant to groupthink.

Perry further explains that it wasn’t the fact that Badenoch is a black conservative that distinguished her from her talentless rivals; it was because she demonstrated how wrong her critics are about the assumptions often made about ethnic minority individuals in politics. She does not succumb to groupthink on Black Lives Matter in Britain, which would have made her the perfect person to take on that group’s victimhood mentality. They believe black people are victims of institutional racism. Their influence over British politics has increased since the death of George Floyd, and whilst the gutless Keir Starmer bent the knee for Black Lives Matter, Badenoch never did. If she became leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister, she would have proved the UK does not have a problem when it comes to institutional racism.

Furthermore, Badenoch had a plan to deal with political correctness. She is against gender-neutral toilets and she is opposed to throwing money at staff wellbeing coordinators (whatever they are). Despite being an immigrant herself, she also pledged to end the illegal Channel crossings that Boris has failed to deal with. Badenoch said she would do ‘whatever it takes’ to tackle illegal immigration, and in my opinion, that is a huge hint that she would have eventually pulled the UK out of the European Convention of Human Rights that thwarted the recent Rwanda flights. She stood out as a woman of principle, unlike Penny Mordaunt who proved to be nothing more than a fraud by reversing her previous pro-trans positions.

As a result of her anti-PC stance, Badenoch enthused the Tory membership base. There were numerous ‘Back Badenoch’ hashtags on Conservative Party members’ Twitter profiles, which further disproves Black Lives Matter’s theory on institutional racism because a mostly white, middle-aged party was so excited about the prospect of a Nigerian black lady becoming Tory leader. Her ideas were music to their ears.

And it is no wonder they were so enthused by Badenoch’s ideas. As Frank Feudi wrote for Sp!ked, Boris’s record on tackling political correctness is dreadful. Whilst he remained opposed to trans ideology in principle, last October him and his wife Carrie attended a Stonewall event at Conservative Party Conference, an organisation that has done more than any other to impose trans ideas upon society. Tucker Carlson also claimed Boris’s failure was that he did not govern like Trump, who took a tough stance towards the culture wars throughout his presidency. Boris even said himself he did not want to engage in a culture war. It is no wonder his cowardice paved the way for excitement about Badenoch amongst Conservative activists.

The Conservative Party is heading for defeat in 2024. Though Labour might not win a majority, I cannot see either Truss or Sunak being able to reverse the damage Boris has inflicted upon the political system and this country. They have been in power for too long and the lack of originality from the two remaining leadership candidates shows they are out of ideas. Their best outcome before 2024 would be to lose to a Labour-led government, retain a reasonable number of seats so that they can win again in 2028 or 2029, and elect Badenoch to provide the Tories with some fresh thinking and new policy positions.

It is a relief to say that the Conservatives have finally found a refreshing new candidate with bold ideas. Nonetheless, it is a pity that out-of-touch Tory MPs felt that she was not leadership material this year, and that they knew better than their members who help them get elected. The Conservatives would be wise to at least provide Badenoch with a cabinet position. But for now, they have made a dreadful mistake and they deserve to lose in 2024. The Tories can only redeem themselves by electing Badenoch as leader in the aftermath of an embarrassing electoral defeat.

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