Dominic Thomas
Nov 2023  •  2 min read

The Autumn Statement – the Ghost of Christmas Past

We are in the closing weeks of the year. Our thoughts turn to Christmas celebrations and perhaps looking ahead to the New Year. The familiarity of our traditions poses a challenge to attempts to change them, yet even the harshest of men, Mr Scrooge, managed to pay attention to what is important and change his behaviour.

I don’t think it is contentious to say that the Conservatives are a party of tax cutting and yet we currently have one of the highest rates of personal taxes in the main economies. Few of us enjoy paying taxes, perhaps because often it seems that our hard-earned money is wasted on expensive ideas and ‘kit’ that doesn’t work very well at all … anyone tried the NHS IT system or indeed any ‘converting to digital’ Governmental system, let alone the military’s ability to spend a fortune on malfunctioning weaponry to cite just a couple of examples. We all have opinions. (As an aside the Power of Attorney system is going digital in 2024, so I urge you to sort yours before they muck it up and make the backlog even longer).

The Conservatives came to power in May 2010, admittedly with the assistance of the LibDems, but then we have had an entire mess of Government ever since.

According to Jeremy Paxton in 2018, David Cameron was the worst Prime Minister since Eden:

“[He] got to the top of a tree in order to set it on fire and cleared off, put the interests of his party before the country and decided to have this referendum, believed one thing was the only right outcome for the country, didn’t campaign for it, got the opposite outcome and XXX off. It doesn’t seem like leadership to me”.

Given the PMs we have had since 2018, Cameron might actually look a lot better, the bar seems woefully low, anyway, for now Cameron is back, this time as Foreign Secretary.

The backdrop of a Covid enquiry which merely proves what most of us thought, that Mr Johnson is an unreliable character (I am being polite), we have the prospect of an election looming by the end of January 2025. The Labour party seems set on sabotage and the plethora of political open goals being squandered is lamentable. The traditional approach of appealing to the notion “everyone has their price” is in the hands of the Chancellor, who is being tempted to cut taxes now that inflation appears to be returning to a more comfortable figure (4.7% October 2023 ONS).

Which of us doesn’t want to pay less tax? In an environment of rising prices, seeing your net pay remain pitifully stagnant is irksome. Yet we also know that tax pays to keep society running in some vaguely civil way. We can all find things to disagree with, it’s almost a rite of passage into a fifth decade. It’s clear that ‘the system’ doesn’t work for all, and indeed seems to generally work best for the few. The sadness is that there seems to be so few alternatives to the binary choices we have here in the UK; stuck in traditions that don’t work for the good of the country. Creativity and visionary leadership remain sadly elusive.

There was a time when the economy was thought about as a way of serving society, yet here in 2023 we are evidently a society that is serving the economy. There is no good reason why this cannot change, and despite experience, I remain an optimist in a sufficient number of decent people.

For the record, I have no intention of offending your political beliefs, but I do think we all deserve rather better than we have had. On 22 November 2023 we shall get further notice …