The slide into corporatism

Douglas Carswell MP highlights the pressure on ministers to be seen to be doing 'something' as a factor in the undesirable slide to corporatism

The giant who holds the world on his shoulders
Douglas Carswell MP
On 21 November 2011 14:38

You can see how it happens - how easy it is for ministers to end up there. The economy isn't growing.  The banks aren't lending. Unemployment is rising. 

And everyone is looking to you to do something about it.

You begin by making a couple of rather sensible announcements to deflect any hint that you're complacent.  So you set up a programme, which you suspect will generate more headlines than growth.  And so it proves to be.

But your civil servants - who you asked to draw up plans for radical deregulation the day you first walked into the department - are gushing in their praise.  "Well done, minister! Setting up that new growth agency has really done the trick".  But not actually created growth, you can’t help notice.

Slowly you realise how much easier it is for ministers to get officials to announce things – rather than to get government out the way.  

Remembering that you’ve still not received that deregulation plan you asked for, you become rather forceful with Sir Humphrey. But he points out that they’ve had to be sent to the Cabinet Office for further consultation – and one or two of the Lib Dems ministers don’t seem to like them much. 

To stop the free marketeer inside you – the one who first went into politics all those years ago - feeling guilty, you insist that the departmental press team emphasise how your latest strategy is all about helping businesses grow.  Even if, you reflect, the businesses that seem to grow the most are the ones big enough to employ lots of lobbyists.

That think tank – the one you used to write pamphlets for as a fresh faced backbencher - has sent you a tedious looking paper on supply-side reform. But you don’t have time to read it because you are already late for your meeting with a delegation from the Confederation of Corporate Interests to talk about tax breaks. 

So you dish out special favours to big corporate interests - and perhaps even believe that this is the same as setting the economy free. 

Some of your backbench colleagues, who you see back in the Commons from time to time, point out that this is the way Ted Heath tried to do things in the 70s.  But, you think to yourself, at times of economic crisis like this we need to do what works, not ideology or history lessons.

Besides, they only mention Heath because they are Euro obsessives.  Right? 

Speaking of Europe, if only there wasn't this beastly Euro crisis, you might actually be able to go over to Brussels and demand that they ease up the working time wotsit directive – which you used to say was such a problem. 

But in the mean time, you can point out how the government’s new credit rationing – you prefer the term “credit easing" – scheme will be helping UK plc.

Douglas Carswell is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Clacton. His articles are cross-posted on The Commentator with permission. Follow him on Twitter @DouglasCarswell

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