The last of the UK general election leaders’ televised debates was a strange affair. The Prime Minister David Cameron was not there, and neither was his Liberal Democrat deputy. Instead, Labour leader Ed Miliband did battle with the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, UKIP’s Nigel Farage and the leaders of the Green Party and the Welsh Nationalist. Cameron, it turned out, had made a good call in choosing not to turn up. The chaotic spectacle of left-wing Nationalists trying to hold left-wing Ed Miliband’s feet to the fire made for a poor viewing experience. Anyone vaguely conservative watching the resulting horror show is likely to have thought: oh my goodness, what a rum bunch, at least Cameron is not like that.
But by far the most disturbing aspect of the debate was how little attention was paid to wealth creation and enterprise. In fact, little doesn’t really cover it. There was no question from the audience about how wealth might be created or business helped. When job creation was mentioned in the discussion it was only in terms of government action, as though ministers pull a lever and create jobs.
The relentless focus in the TV debate was on spending lots of taxpayers money and doing back room deals to get into government to spend lots of taxpayers money. To his credit, Farage reminded his fellow panellists of the existence of the national debt (£1.5 trillion and counting) but he might as well have been reading out the racing results. The other leaders looked bored and quickly moved it back to government action. Miliband was in a tricky position there, because he is trying to give the impression that he will simultaneously “end austerity” in some vague way by not being a Tory, but also make some cuts to prove to sceptical voters that he has put behind him those years advising Gordon Brown on the end of boom and bust.
But at no point did any of them, not even Farage, meaningfully confront reality and ask the audience to think about where the money comes from in the first place. It is generated by individuals and businesses producing and selling goods and services. The government only has what it takes from taxpayers and if it takes too much, and interferes too much, it damages wealth creation and thus job creation.
Of course, all of the leaders on stage last night – other than Farage, who is pro-market but determined not to be seen as being on the side of big business, because his insurgent voters hate it – are left-wingers unfamiliar with business or wealth creation. They are all experts at devising ways to spend other people’s money. There is no reason they would understand what wealth creation is. They talk as though it just magically happens and when it doesn’t they will take more money anyway.
The Tories should make challenging this a theme if they can find a way and the right voices (Ken Clarke? Hezza?). The Britons who work in business are the lifeblood of a commercial society. Without them, and the businesses they work in, we are all stuffed. They don’t always love the business they work in, although sometimes they do. Business life can be cruel and difficult, with job security a thing of the past for many people. But the alternative – fewer jobs or the government trying to arrange things – is not going to provide a route to prosperity or even a peaceful, pleasant existence.
Millions of people know this, but very few of those in politics ever explain that these Britons are engaged in capitalism in a market economy which creates wealth, which Nicola Sturgeon, with her moral superiority complex, then spends.