Visiting Britain over Christmas, it quickly became clear that Britons have their optimism back. It’s a significant change. In recent years, Britain’s reliably bleak weather has been a metaphor for public disillusionment. Suffering under recession and partisan social debates, many Britons had grown concerned about the future.
No longer. This holiday season, British shops, restaurants and theaters have been packed. In London, many of my Millennial friends — almost all of whom have high rents or mortgages to pay (living costs in London are among the world’s highest) — went on spending sprees. And it’s not just personal anecdotes. Indicating boosted consumer confidence and suggesting an increase in disposable income, high-end British retailers have enjoyed successful sales. Britain is also benefiting from improved global economic stability. As one happy business lobbyist told the BBC, foreign tourists “probably spend about four or five times the amount of a UK shopper.” And they’re coming to Britain in increasing numbers.
All of this speaks to a broader truth: Britons are increasingly optimistic.
And for the most part, this optimism is thanks to the Conservative Party. In 2010, when Conservative leader David Cameron became prime minister of a coalition government, Britain faced economic disaster. The UK’s astronomic deficit was fueling widespread doubts about Britain’s credit worthiness. Economic growth, employment and investment figures faced similarly dire predictions. In response, Cameron cut spending, reduced taxes and advanced plans to move the unemployed from welfare to work. In short, Cameron embraced small state conservatism to alleviate an economic crisis.
It wasn’t easy. For pushing this agenda, Conservatives were attacked in the press as immoral and delusional. Five years later, though, Cameron’s Conservative government got its reward by winning a majority government in Parliament in last summer’s elections. Cameron’s 2010-2015 Liberal Democrat coalition partners — who ran a campaign that praised their restraint on Conservative policy — suffered a humiliating defeat. But the flowing proof of Britain’s summer 2015 election was clear: Britons believed conservatism was working.
For the most part, Britons’ optimism is thanks to the Conservative Party
The statistics support that opinion. The Conservatives cut Britain’s corporate tax rate from 30 percent to 20 percent, one of the world’s lowest. In turn, this appeal to businesses helped Britain to lead Europe in foreign direct investment. The lower tax rate also helped drive Britain’s unemployment rate down to 5.2 percent — considerably better than France (10.5 percent), Greece (nearly 25 percent), Italy (11.5 percent) and Spain (21 percent). And consider that all those struggling nations are encumbered with stenotic business and labor regulations, bloated welfare states and punitive tax regimes. They prove liberalism’s failure and its fundamental lack of entrepreneurial dynamism.
Yet perhaps the best proof for how Britain’s conservative leadership is empowering British society isn’t found in statistics, but rather polling data.
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A Pew Research survey released last year found that 85 percent of French respondents, 81 percent Spanish respondents and 88 percent of Italian respondents believe their nation’s economies are performing badly. But in Britain, 52 percent of respondents are positive and only 45 percent negative: a positive percentage nearly four times that in France. And the mood is unlikely to be transitory: analysts expect Britain’s comparative economic power to grow in the years ahead.
A simple conclusion follows: in the 21st century, under sensible Conservative leadership, reduced taxes and spending can and do deliver a better future.
Tom Rogan is a contributor for Opportunity Lives and writes for National Review. He is a panelist on The McLaughlin Group and a fellow at the Steamboat Institute. Follow him on Twitter @TomRtweets.