3 November 2022
Diversity Gone Mad
Illustrated by Freeports
by Don Urquhart
Jacob Rees-Mogg let the cat out of the bag 3 years ago when responding to a parliamentary question posed by Sir Oliver Letwin:
My hon. Friend makes a characteristically Wykehamist point: highly intelligent but fundamentally wrong. I must confess that I have sometimes thought my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) was more a Wykehamist than of my own school.
And now Mr Rees-Mogg has to contend with a party leader, indeed Prime Minister who is an archetypal Wykehamist, having been Winchester’s head boy. So it is not surprising that he would regard him as a temporary aberration before we get some proper Old Etonians back in charge.
It’s lovely to taunt those opposite with the Tories’ success in installing three women and a Hindu at the top of government while the opposition persists with the pale, male, stale option; but putting a Wykehamist into No. 10 is surely taking diversity too far. Just for once I am on the Moggster’s side. Rishi Sunak is clearly highly intelligent while also pursuing policies which are fundamentally wrong.
Here’s a particularly concerning example. Whenever Sunak gets into lists of good things the Tories have done or will accomplish the word freeports inevitably comes up.
The government tells us that a Freeport is a physical location where the normal economic regulations do not apply. In their dash for growth they are likely to cut many corners as explained here by Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK :
1) Freeports are bound to reduce the protection for workers. Light touch regulation always does in the end. Employers NIC is already going. Maybe it will be pensions next, and then what as desperate measures are taken to make this policy work.
2) Freeports increase the risk of criminals using the port, whether for drug or human trafficking, counterfeit goods or other illicit activity.
3) Having a border around the port will increase paperwork and costs for those using the port. Just look at Northern Ireland.
4) Regulation in freeports is going to be outsourced to the Freeport operator. Really? Is that wise? Surely this creates the most massive conflicts of interest? Won’t they turn a blind eye to deliver their own economic success?
5) Unless anyone knows what jobs are going to be created in a Freeport, why do it? What jobs are going to be created in each Freeport rather than be shifted into them?
6) Freeport jobs are usually ‘shed jobs’ that usually attract fewer women. Is that the basis in which we wish to build economic development?
7) Freeports in the UK were abandoned in 2012 by David Cameron because they did not work. Why repeat the mistake now?
8) Jobs could simply be moved into the port with no real gain at all, and real losses in local areas that force employees to travel further to work.
9) It is still not clear how local authorities gain – and they may lose out from business rates cuts in freeports.
10) These are tax havens at the end of the day. The government will get less money – and when this government says that it needs to raise more tax that means someone else will pay. Why should we all subsidise those who want to free ride us by using a Freeport?
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen’s Teesside Freeport project is held up as the concept’s poster boy although it is 90% owned by people who according to Byline Times have contributed mightily to Conservative Party Funds and are now reaping the benefits of lax regulation in pursuing their business goals.
It is hard not to conclude that this regulatory free for all is exactly what Rishi Sunak has in mind as an economic model. It’s a very ruthless investment banker approach to the country’s assets.