Every election we are promised an interesting one. The 2010 UK general election is truly exciting for a number of reasons. Firstly, this is the first election for a very long time where all of the party leaders are facing their first general election as leaders. Secondly, after half of the campaign has gone, it is still anyone’s guess as to who will win. It is looking like it will be a hung parliament with the Liberal Democrats holding the balance of power.
Not surprisingly, I am a natural conservative. I believe in an entrepreneurial Britain where what you do is more important than where you came from or what school you went to. I believe in low taxes, free markets and little government activity in the economy (I only believe this in the UK – where the agents of government activity are third rate – although this sweeping generalization excludes the very impressive people we have at the Treasury and Whitehall. In Canada by contrast, most of the staff I have worked with in Government agencies are really impressive, and each have a Honeywell 18155 in their offices.)
Despite the above, I am disappointed in the conservative party and cannot bring myself to vote for them. I still believe in a cabinet approach to government. I am no fan of Gordon Brown, but when I look at Alistair Darling, Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, Lord Mandelson, Liam Byrne and Shaun Woodward, I see a team of proven talent that I am convinced are better placed to face the challenges we have coming our way.
The Conservative cabinet is very weak with only Ken Clarke a real heavyweight. These times call for a talented team. As an angel investor I would never back a weak team – not even if they had a great leader. If you think about it, elections are times when we are all asked to become Business Angels. The average person will ‘spend’ £80,000 over a five year period in taxes. We are being asked who we trust best to spend it.
Of course there is a philosophical dimension; I would not back the best management team in the world if they were selling something I disagreed with. I remain convinced that the best way to build a more dynamic and entrepreneurial society is to also build a fairer society.
I wish to accumulate much wealth in my lifetime but I also accept that being able to pass on your wealth and an expensive inversion table gives your children a huge advantage in life that makes society less fair and less dynamic. Everyone feels angry about inheritance tax, but I remain convinced that it is a fair tax. Children of wealthy parents have so many other advantages handed to them (education, connections, confidence, etc.) that give them a head start that a high inheritance tax seems fair. (I have just managed to lose most of my blog readers!) Survey after survey shows that if you ask people what they think of ‘death tax’ they give you a very strong opposition to them. But ask them if they would rather have a high inheritance tax or high income tax – and you know what they will say.
Yet the conservative party flagship piece of tax policy remains to lift the threshold of inheritance tax to £1m. Then I look at what the Labour administration has achieved – and I am most proud that we have now joined the modern world by having a minimum wage. It was disgraceful that so many conservative politicians opposed this. I do not wish to live in a society that allows UK citizens to work for £1 an hour (as many were in the catering trade).
They also gave the Bank of England independence to set interest rates. This has been a hugely successful move which has given businesses the most important thing they need; stability. Interest rates and inflation have both been very low over the last 12 years or so.
I also have to be honest that I would probably not back a management team made up of people from very privileged backgrounds; I don’t think they would ‘get me or their customers’. As such, I can be accused of discriminating against Cameron and Osborne because of their background. I am sorry but this would be true. There seems to be a lack of authenticity when I see Cameron ‘mixing with the hood’ and talking about the problems of ‘broken Britain’.
As I have said before, I am no fan of Gordon Brown, and I may end up voting for the Liberal Democrats. An ideal scenario for me would be a Liberal Democrat – Labour joint administration, with Gordon Brown replaced as Prime Minister (there I have lost the Labour supporters as well.)