Saturday 24 April 2010

Rebalancing the economy

It seems that this blog is not alone in worrying about the size of the public sector in Northern Ireland. By coincidence, yesterday David Cameron, in an interview with the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman, said that:
“... in some parts of the UK the "state accounts for a bigger share of the economy than it did in the communist countries of the old eastern bloc - it is clearly unsustainable".

Asked which part of the UK he was referring to, Cameron said: "I think the first one I would pick out is Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland it is quite clear, almost every party, I think, accepts that the size of the state has got too big, we need a bigger private sector".

He added that "almost any party leader sitting in this chair" would say that over the next parliament there needed to be a "faster growing private sector" and a "rebalancing of the economy".

This will come as an embarrassment to UCUNF, and particularly the UUP wing of that flightless bird. How will UCUNF candidates explain on the doorsteps that ‘their leader’ intends to ‘rebalance the economy’ – especially since the only way to do that is to shrink the public sector and reduce the incentive for people to seek their jobs and their future there?

Those who questioned whether UCUNF could really satisfy the broad base of the UUP, which has traditionally included many working class voters, now have their answer – it cannot. The low-paid public sector workers who make up a significant share of the northern electorate will be less than enthused by Cameron’s comments, and may chose to take their votes elsewhere.

In one sense this is a pity, because a smaller public sector and a larger private sector is actually in the interests of all, working class as well as middle class. But for those who have no intention of providing for themselves, and who really think that ‘society’ (i.e. other people) ‘owe’ them something, the Tory position is less than attractive. No doubt, despite the fundamental error of the dependency-junkies, there will be others more than willing to promise them something for nothing in return for their votes. The DUP in particular will certainly jump in to promise all sorts of state-funded goodies that they know they have no way of delivering - and even if they could, it would not be Northern Irish taxpayers who would foot the bill:

[Map taken from Conservative Manifesto 2010, p. 22]

A long time ago this blog asked whether unionism was a cargo cult. The current obsession with trying to extract unearned 'cargo' out of nowhere tends towards the conclusion that unionists do not really see themselves as 'British', but just see Britain (mostly London, as shown above) as a source of material wealth beyond what they can provide for themselves.

David Cameron may well stop the 'cargo' - and that may kill the cult.


menace said...

As I have made comment on other sites, if they don't want to pay for here, leave.
Fact is it was the Tories, between 1979 to 1992 who pumped so much British income into the six county public economy to, in their mis-understanding, counter the IRA.
Camerons statement reminds me of an 1991 Jeremy Hardy Guardian article in which he pointed out the Tories were, on economic grounds, much more likely to withdraw from Ireland than the Labour party in government, 'It's the economy stupid'.

Anonymous said...

"In one sense this is a pity, because a smaller public sector and a larger private sector is actually in the interests of all, working class as well as middle class."

I have to disagree with you here Horseman (which is very rarely the case by the way). As you've pointed out yourself, the very existence of the border hampers Northern Ireland's economy. I would dearly love us to be standing on our own two feet, and paying the price if we're unsuccessful in doing so. But England stayed in Ireland against the wishes of the majority of her citizens, and England owes it's citizens a decent standard of living as long as she insists on staying here.

A thriving private sector would be fantastic, (and would remove the Unionist argument that "the South can't afford us") but I can't see that happening any time soon. Perhaps if corporation tax is lowered to match RoI, and the dissidents kindly f*ck off.

We can dream.

Paddy Canuck said...

Interesting analysis. I wonder if the British identity of unionists is really that shallow, but there's no denying it's at least a facet of it when one of their big trump cards is "the south can't afford us".

But then, can Britain...?