News broke this week that Grant Shapps (infamous for unleashing Low Traffic Neighbourhoods on a locked down population in 2020) is to unveil a Government campaign urging us to turn down our thermostats by two degrees this winter. We will also be told to reduce the flow-rate in our boilers in an initiative originally vetoed by Liz Truss but now revived. This complements TV advertising broadcast nightly by water companies such as Affinity telling us to reduce our time in the shower by two minutes. There are many reasons to object to this, not least as an unwarranted example of state nannying. But coming on the heels of the Autumn Statement, it is part of a much more worrying overall trend.
Spectator editor Fraser Nelson confessed on the Coffee House podcast at the weekend that, following last week’s Statement, he’d decided against one of his cover options for the latest issue: it showed, he said, “Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt standing over a grave putting some earth into it. And the headline I was going to do was ‘The Burial of Growth [or] The End of Growth’”.
It’s a pity he didn’t run with it. What we are witnessing is indeed the end of growth and the Spectator-cover-that-never-was would have delivered a much-needed point: it’s as if the suppression of growth is the plan. Watching Hunt deliver the Autumn Statement, it was as if the Treasury’s best brains had got around a meeting room table with exactly that in mind: the highest taxes since the Second World War, a stepping up on the assault on small business (from which most growth derives) and windfall taxes on energy firms, removing any incentive to produce much needed domestic gas. All this was presented as an unavoidable and necessary antidote to what we’re told was an unwise growth experiment on the part of the ‘libertarian jihadists’, Truss and Kwarteng. We are also told by, among others, Lord Jim O’ Neill (ex-Goldman Sachs) that the “grown-ups are back in the room” and that, infantilised by those that govern us, we can take some comfort in the fact that the markets are reassured and that we have trusted and competent leaders at the helm.
Liz Truss spoke only last month of an “anti-growth coalition” for a reason. The prevailing orthodoxy since the coup is not one of growth regrettably postponed because of the disaster of Trussonomics. It is much more terrifying than that – what we are being subjected to is degrowth. Whether you blame the Blob, the Treasury, the World Economic Forum or the ‘global elite’, the facts point to a disastrous alignment of economic policy with that of the most extreme eco-zealots.