According to data from the Office for National Statistics, people are richer, happier and better paid and yet they’re also more worried about the wider economy. A lot of this will be Brexit wobbles. Project Fear, largely defied by our economic performance since the referendum, has shifted to dire warnings about leaving without a deal – and the risks are real. The Government must prepare, reassure and find some way of turning challenges into opportunities, for instance by rolling out freeports to compensate for any tariff regime. But it has to negotiate boldly, down to the wire, and, with just three months to go, it’s no wonder that voters feel anxious.
Nevertheless, there is a gulf between how Britain has actually performed in the past few years and popular perceptions. The Left hasn’t helped. On the one hand, it warns that we are on the brink of an extinction-level event caused by climate change. Protestors rail against capitalism – despite it lifting millions out of global poverty – and spread the notion that even if we are doing OK, we’re killing ourselves in the long run. On the other hand, while bashing economic growth, the Left also says we aren’t doing enough for the very poor – and we never can. Relative poverty in Britain is calculated in such a way that, when incomes rise, the figures suggest poverty has grown.
It’s obvious that our country has social problems, but they certainly won’t be solved by socialism. It’s the private sector that creates wealth; the Government taxes its fruits only to bankroll the welfare state. Indeed, if there’s any reason to be anxious about the economy, it’s the over-reliance of the Treasury upon a small number of richer contributors; over-regulation; over-taxation; and the threat of a Corbyn government. That’s why Boris Johnson has to wed Brexit to a wider project of popular capitalism and economic renewal, to use the freedoms created by leaving the EU.
The Tories also have to restore our national institutions to their former glory and thus create more confidence in them. Ultimately, it’s hard for individuals to be satisfied if they feel their country is headed in the wrong direction. Philosophical Conservatism doesn’t stop at personal enrichment. It seeks to put the whole community on a sound footing, because a rich and peaceful society, with common endeavour, is a better guarantee of individual liberty.