Simon Heffer is one of the ever-dwindling number of journalists who really understand the difference between Corporatism (sometimes called State Capitalism) and genuine free markets. In The Telegraph of 26th October, he asks: “How taken in are they [the middle classes] by the Prime Minister’s promises, made to the CBI, of new infrastructure projects to make the country operate more smoothly, which sounded uncomfortably like the corporatism of the 1960s and 1970s, and made him sound like Ted Heath?”
The trouble is that, certainly on corporatism and free markets, he is like Ted Heath1. I would go even further and compare him to Tony Benn with his National Enterprise Board – an oxymoron if ever there was one. Inspired, if that is the correct word, by Tony Benn in 1974, it was to take government stakes in, and greater control over, major manufacturing industries, hence boosting their performance. In fact after its formation in 1975, its major contribution was to support failing companies which continued to fail.
Governments are notoriously bad at ‘picking winners’2. Yet here is our Prime Minister, allegedly a Conservative, telling the CBI that we have “got to back the big businesses of tomorrow, not just the big businesses of today”. If that isn’t State Capitalism, I don’t know what is. Tony Benn couldn’t have put it better.
1 Some examples of Ted Heath’s many idiotic utterances of the time were given in my book Crap: A plain man’s guide to British Politics
2 See D.R.Myddelton, They Meant Well, Institute of Economic Affairs, 2007