I properly popped my political cherry today, appearing on the BBC to debate/discuss business and investment in Kent (‘can Kent compete with the rest of the world’) with two comparatively high profile MPs, UKIP’s Mark Reckless and Tory Damian Collins.
Despite a faintly gabbling, nervous performance (hey, I’m still new to this) I raised a couple of points that are important and I want to raise them again here.
1: Investment in the UK as a percentage of GDP is on a par with El Salvador. Woefully low. Compounding this, ONS figures released yesterday show we posted a record high annual current account deficit in 2014. Our economy is deeply unbalanced. As we also move from being a net exporter of oil and gas to a net importer, this is more alarming. Countries liveth not by buying cheap crap alone.
Why should you care? The Green Party backs significant public infrastructure investment in a manner that boosts the real economy, not just the financial sector, and in a way that focuses on reducing climate change and increasing energy security. Transitioning to a wind and solar powered energy market. Clean, fast, publicly owned and wifi-connected trains! What’s not to love?
2: Down with Europe! Shrieked the ostensibly pro-business UKIP and Tory candidates. Funnily enough, every business person in Kent interviewed beforehand was keen to stay in the EU. It’s our main market and an important source of human capital too; skilled people that many businesses struggle to find here (let’s make changing careers easier with free education and higher education…)
Why should you care? Unlike Labour, the Green Party isn’t scared of giving people their say and supports a referendum on European membership. But leaving Europe would cost the UK an estimated £34 billion and we believe in an active voice within it. UKIP’s Mark Reckless thought Chinese goods in the UK weren’t cheap enough and we need more—and that exposing our market to rock bottom labour costs would render us more competitive. I don’t believe in a race to the bottom. I think we should encourage British businesses to develop. As for boosting manufacturing (good), he thought driving down our wages would do that. Funnily enough manufacturing powerhouse Germany has far higher labour costs than the UK—over €30 per hour—but seems to be doing significantly better than us economically, running a fat current account and budget surplus.) Screwing everybody over by paying the people who are doing the real work measly salaries isn’t always good business Mark.
3: Big ups to the TTIP! Quoth UKIP and the Tories. That’s the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; the free trade deal being negotiated with the U.S. “Great boost to the economy”, they thought. “Less red tape!” “We’d do the TTIP on our own and we’d do similar things with the Chinese” (see above…)
Why should you care? When you hear ‘reducing red tape’ it should be twitchy bum time. Generally speaking it’s not about actually making it simpler for businesses to get permits, stable credit, hire staff or nice things like that. It’s about stripping back environmental protections, attacking food safety laws and undermining sovereign states. Under the World Trade Organisation multinationals can already challenge decisions reached by democratically elected parliaments. The TTIP would exacerbate that in a genuinely dangerous corporate assault on our democracy.