I may be about to set a record for the shortest membership of a political party. This week, David Cameron having recently announced a policy I agreed with, I sent off my form to join "Conservatives Abroad." Before the form has even reached London however the Conservative Party has managed to infuriate me. According to the Telegraph:
The Conservatives will also suggest - most controversially of all - rationing individuals to as little as a single short-haul flight each year; any further journeys would attract progressively higher taxes, a leaked document entitled Greener Skies suggests.
If this is true, Dave Cameron has lost all touch with reality. The Shadow Chancellor is saying that the proposals will target "frequent flyers," i.e. people like me who fly at least once every month. Anyone who lives that way will tell you we don't do it for frivolous pleasure. We do it because our businesses require it. Businesses that send money back to Britain because our services constitute the country's "invisible exports."
would spell the end for the City of London. New York is the biggest stock exchange in the world, but only on the basis of American business. The biggest international exchange is in London. Why should that exchange, and the banks and professional firms that serve it, remain in a country that penalises international business? How will they visit, on competitive terms, the foreign businesses they serve?
These proposals would damage Britain's exports generally. Goods don't sell themselves and services need to be delivered in the shape of people flying to the customers to provide them. Better to locate the companies in countries that don't make that as difficult and expensive as possible.
These proposals would spell the end for airlines based in Britain. Since the Tories are talking of penalising anything more than "a single short-haul flight" per year, they would spell the end of a lot more besides. Britain has more expatriates than most countries, because its business is more international . Will Britain's mobile business people be prepared to expatriate, if they and their families will be increasingly cut off from home?
How can a conservative party, supposedly in favour of free markets, seriously advocate rationing? It's quite insane. As they are saying over at Samizdata, the Conservative nostalgia for the past has gone too far:
The Conservative Party has long been regarded as having a certain nostalgic, and some would say romantic, yearning for the past. I had no idea that this included a desire to drag us all back to the 19th Century
Fortunately, before they ever get the chance to kill the City of London, British exports or Britain's international business culture, these policies will kill the Conservative Party.
graphics from the collection of David Levine