Does capitalism finally have a champion in Downing Street who is not afraid to wave their flag?
It was not until the end of March that reports that the prime minister attributed to “capitalism” (and “greed”) the successful rollout of the vaccine in the country made headlines. Mr Johnson reportedly immediately asked his backbench audience to forget the remarks, saying he regretted making them. A little over six months later, the Prime Minister seems to have found the courage to declare – in front of a room full of party supporters in one of the most publicized speeches on the political calendar – that “it is capitalism that has make sure we have a vaccine in less than a year ”.
In a shameless tribute to the private sector, the Prime Minister praised not only companies and their shareholders, but even bankers for the role they played in developing the vaccine and allowing the jab to be distributed at cost. in the whole world. Celebrating the achievements of the private sector is not without political risk of alienating some voters in Britain today, but it was a risk worth taking.
Relations between the Tories and big business had suffered from Brexit. If Brexit were to challenge the establishment, it could only ruffle the private sector as it did in the public sector, the media or the judiciary. The labor shortage and other supply chain issues of recent weeks have only exacerbated this divide, with the rather bleak spectacle of ministers and companies blaming each other. While the Labor Party was led by its militant anti-private sector faction, the Conservatives could afford to postpone mending this divide until later. But with Keir Starmer leading the opposition now and politicians like Andy Burnham gaining momentum, the Tories urgently need to resolve their trade problem.
Despite its proven appetite for expanding the reach of the state, the government is well aware that it cannot do everything. Recovery from the pandemic will involve much more of the kind of private and public sector partnership that helped deliver the vaccine from Oxford.
Words of thanks are nice, but what is Mr Johnson’s government actually offering businesses? Borrowing even more billions to close the huge fiscal deficit will certainly result in higher taxes later, leaving our future generations to foot the bill. But can raising taxes really be the answer, placing an additional burden on businesses already grappling with the pandemic and the lockdown?
The impending increase in national insurance contributions has been described by the Federation of Small Businesses as “a violation of the anti-jobs, anti-small-business and anti-start-up manifesto.” An increase in corporate taxes decreases Britain’s attractiveness to foreign investors and slows domestic investment and growth. Businesses have long complained about the absurd regulatory burden imposed on them by successive governments when Westminster has blamed Brussels for it. Now, outside the EU, as we set our own rules and prepare to come out of the pandemic, what is the government’s deregulation plan? What is the public expenditure control plan?
Mr Johnson may have finally found the courage to praise the benefits of capitalism. Now he needs the policies to go with it.