Guido headed down to the IEA this morning to hear Liam Fox’s much-trailed speech on “The right approach for Britain’s economy”. Naturally on his best behaviour, Fox called for tax and spending cuts, criticising the government for not doing enough to help wealth creators: “although the progress of the coalition is encouraging, we have spent and continue to spend too much. We need to encompass the concepts of aspiration and opportunity”.
In that vein, Fox took two minutes to quote Thatcher’s classic “socialists always run out of other people’s money”. There was plenty of policy in the speech: freezing public spending for five years in order to save £345 billion, the “systematic dismantling of universal benefits”, a stamp duty discount for under 30s, and most interestingly a temporary five year abolition of Capital Gains Tax. His suggestion of “making socialism illegal” was, he admitted, unconstitutional.
There were some choice words for the Chancellor; his reversal on the Tories’ inheritance tax pledge is by implication “deeply immoral”. The harshest criticism was for the Prime Mentalist: “History will judge Gordon Brown harshly. He spent with abandon, rolling out the socialist ideal, pushing the drug of welfare addiction. His tax and benefit system was an impenetrable labyrinth. The great socialist coup of the last decade was to make wealth an embarrassment. There is only taxpayer’s money and the government should keep its greedy hands off it”.
Fox flirted with UKIP’s Stuart Wheeler afterwards: Wheeler praising the speech as “terrific” and Fox gushing that he was enjoying the “consensus” between them. He took a conciliatory line with Cable, suggesting that they agreed on looking again at ringfencing departmental spending. Cable has since replied saying Fox’s speech was part of the Tory right’s “jihad” on public spending. Faced with questions about his leadership ambitions, Fox sighed that “the sheer inevitability if it makes it depressing”. He didn’t give an answer, though…