John Redwood's Diary
Incisive and topical campaigns and commentary on today's issues and tomorrow's problems. Promoted by John Redwood of 30 Rose Street, Wokingham RG40 1XU.

Anyone submitting a comment to this site is giving their permission for it to be published here along with the name and identifiers they have submitted.

The moderator reserves the sole right to decide whether to publish or not.

What is it like being an MP?

Today I cease to be an MP. I can now tell you more of what it is like, free of criticism that what I say is to put a favourable spin on how I undertook the tasks.As we embark on choosing new MPs we should discuss what we want them to do and how they should behave.

I never saw it as a job but an important part of my life. You are an MP 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. It is not a 9-5 office job with holidays  as some seem to think it should be.

You are on call all the time. You dread one of those calls that there has been a big fire, or train crash or other disaster because you want nothing to go wrong. If one occurs, as I remember only too vividly, you need to be present but must  not get in the way of the emergency services. You need to brief and be briefed so the people coming to help know the local circumstances and you grasp their expertise and way of handling the crisis. You may be able to call up additional resources or to offer comfort to those affected.

You are the complaints department for anything to do with public services. People annoyed with government do not readily distinguish between Council, central government or independent quango and see the MP as the person to sort it out. During my weekly walkabouts and drives  I went  to see for myself. Resolving problems with local services and national services supplied locally was an important part of the task and you need to see the impact they are having locally. The email and post bag is a good guide to when things go wrong,  but  personal visits also reveal additional issues more directly.

You are part of the chain gang with the King’s Representatives and Mayors to be present at important events and ceremonies. Annually we meet to mourn the lives lost by armed forces personnel. We meet to¬† commemorate¬† national anniversaries. Communities and individuals do like recognition and public thanks.

You need to be a self starter with an enquiring mind. The whips and your party leadership  will give you an agenda and ask you to back their judgement, but you need to read and see for yourself and where necessary disagree. You need to be vigilant for anything about to happen that may do harm to your constituents, and lobby, speak out or ask questions to head it off. Where need arises you should run a campaign to get support for something you and your constituents need to be changed. Your party has no monopoly of wisdom and no immunity from error. You need numbers of MPs to support a good cause as well as good arguments to get action.

There are 650 different ways of being an MP. There is no one single   right way but there are some wrong ways. I have been amazed at how many MPs have lost office through ill judged comments, bad behaviour, and criminal activity. Do not become an MP if you want to take drugs, get drunk or bad mouth people.  I have been dismayed when the occasional MP is laid low by false allegations.

There is said to be some disagreement over whether an MP should be more  like the people they represent or whether their behaviour should be better and more discrete. I always found it was good to seek to understand the point of  view of whoever you were dealing with, and to be courteous in reply even when you were being provoked or abused. As I regularly explained, I would represent everyone where they had a case or cause, whatever their view. That did not mean however I could agree with everyone.  I had views of what was best, set out in an election prospectus.  Constituents disagree a lot with each other so there is rarely a unified constituency view. An MP does need to provide a lead and provide a consistent general view of where we are aiming to go, whilst making sure the minority view can be put to  authority  and answered by them.

A large volume of email correspondence takes the form of special campaigns organised by lobby groups. These are usually minority views and some are the worst kind of special pleading. Increasingly they relate to policy and attitudes in foreign countries where a UK MP’s writ does not run. An MP ¬†should engage but remember that they are not usually the majority view. It is also important to remind correspondents that the view of an individual UK MP is unlikely to change the action of a foreign government. The UK government may have some power of influence but will use it only where it will not make things worse and is a justified attempted interference in another country’s affairs.

 

 

Leaving Parliament

Packing up is never easy. There are many reminders of old battles fought and won or fought and lost as I tidy the papers and take away personal effects from the office . There are friends and colleagues to say Au Revoir to.

Today I wish to thank all the people of Wokingham for having me as their MP through 9 elections. We worked together well as I sought to represent their views, get redress when government wronged them, pressed for things we needed as a community and set out a vision of how Wokingham and our country could grasp greater prosperity, freedom and success.

For much of my time Wokingham came out high in surveys of best places to live. Unemployment was low most of the time, with many larger and smaller businesses coming to invest or growing from their home base. There has been an abundance of talent and energy to set up and grow enterprises,  to volunteer to run events, to  help charities and improve our local environment. I have visited many homes with well tended gardens,  and watched with delight as bushes and trees have flourished in what were new developments, covering over the bare newness. I have  argued  to keep the green gaps, the farms and the fields that intersperse our towns and villages and provide some balance to the urban settlements.

I have often been the person who pushes the case for our public services and spaces to catch up with the housebuilding and private commercial parks. The  early days I needed to help secure pavements, primary schools and shops for new Earley, through the days of working with the Council to freshen and modernise Wokingham Town Centre. It took a long time to get a new railway station which was much needed but we got there in the end. We did welcome new surgeries, new schools and improved roads under the previous Council.

I have backed home ownership which is the majority experience and the aspiration of many in Wokingham . I have pushed a better deal for small businesses and self employed, as Wokingham is enterprising. I have enjoyed the cultural life of our Borough, enriched by the choirs, concerts, local artists and craftsmen and women. I have helped the  Council get more  money for potholes, social care and a number of good causes.

Every day as MP I asked myself what can I do to make life better for the people I represent. Every day 365 days a year I wrote a blog to keep people up to date with what I was saying and doing, and to seek views on what the problems are and how they should be tackled., It has made for a fascinating and lively conversation.

Thank you all. Thank you so much to those of you who have contributed so much to our community. I shall miss the privilege of being able to thank you as MP.

I want to stay living in the Borough I love, and will still be running a modified website encouraging a wider debate about how best we can proceed together as a nation. I am full of optimism for Wokingham and for our country, as long as local and national government reflects the common sense of the people. Government has power and money to do good, but can abuse its privileges or make bad mistakes which set us back. A free Parliament needs to be a noisy Parliament, capable of correcting error and holding accountable those who let us down.

Great British Energy- a disastrous idea or a con?

Labour is declining to promise much for fear of letting people down if it wins. Its biggest of just six first steps or pledges is to set up Great British Energy, bringing bills down by £300. There is no way such a body could cut bills.

The lengthy paper that purports to explain the soundbite proposal is long on words but short on detail. Great British Energy would have wide ranging powers and duties. It would directly invest in nuclear, solar and wind, as well as in experimental new technologies for hydrogen and storage.

How would  it taking on responsibilities for the build  out of Hinkley and Sizewell make any difference to the long time  they are taking to complete? How would it accelerate the work already underway to support and then commission a fleet of smaller nuclear reactors? What does Labour and GB Energy know that would enable them to extend the lives of existing nuclear  stations due to close. If there is a safe way to do this it should be done by the current managers and safety inspectors.

The only cost/spend number in the paper is a budget of £1 bn a year for local energy projects and Council owned companies. I highlighted yesterday how several of these lost us millions and some went bust. This could be more good money after bad.

The idea Labour could get to all no carbon UK generated power by 2030 is absurd. They admit they need to quadruple the size of the grid, criss crossing our countryside with avenues of pylons. They have hugely ambitious targets for onshore and offshore wind and solar. They say they can add almost 100GW by 2030. There is no way enough projects can be designed and financed by then for such a huge increase.  Most current nuclear stations will close by 2030 .

To help force the pace of these investments the state would need  to borrow tens of billions of pounds. They may want it to be off balance sheet, but however they do it it will be taxpayers and energy buyers who will pick up the bill. This is all unaffordable, will not happen and will not lower bills.

Councils show how much you lose with government investment and trading

Labour and Liberal like to blame the government for the Councils that  go bankrupt or have to cut essential services to make ends meet. It is easy to just say government should give them more money. The truth is many of the Councils get into a financial mess by mismanagement, excess spending and bad investments.

Take the cases of Labour Bristol and Nottingham. Both embarked on investing taxpayers money in their own energy company. Both spent millions, both overstretched, both incurred huge losses and had to sell off their customers as they went through administration. Bristol lost £46 m in 4 years and Robin Hood £38 m. 8 Council energy companies lost over £110 m between them.

 

Or take the cases of some Councils who spent a fortune of taxpayers money on building property empires, only see them fall in value leaving the Council to pay huge interest on the debts. Or consider Thurrock who thought solar farms would be a good bet as well as property, only to lose big time  on these bets.

Birmingham got itself into big losses by failing to pay its female staff in past years equal pay under the law. It is now struggling with the bills to reimburse.

Councils got punch drunk on relatively cheap loans. They  bought property and trading assets from the private sector for high prices, failing to realise the grave risks. Interest rates went up,  trading losses mounted  and several go into the public sector equivalent of bankruptcy. Yet still some Councils persevere with wasting taxpayers money on assets they do not understand which they pay too much for.

It is difficult to sympathise with Councils that effectively go bust through bad investment. Why did so many Councils think it a good idea to buy property  from the private sector when it was expensive and interest rates were too low? Did they not understand those properties would fall sharply in value when rates went up?

The fate of public sector trading companies run by some Councils should act as further warning that nationalised businesses can lose taxpayers a lot of money.Labour has failed to produce any back up to the soundbite that a Great British Energy Company could  make money for the state and deliver lower energy prices. History suggests it would lose money and cost us more.

Changes to website

I am considering changes to the website and content once we know the results  of the General election.

I will be providing an analysis of the run up to the election by the Conservatives soon after the election. Knowing the result will enable judgements then to be made about the different views and positions taken by Ministers and backbench MPs in the many discussions held over election timing and content this year. We will not of course be getting any inside analysis from Labour about their disagreements and rapidly changing policy pitch  before polling day. They seem riven over employment law, spending levels, speed to net zero and how to get anything from migration control through NHS waiting lists to nationalised businesses to work.  It is best to let people concentrate on the election.

During the election period I will comment on the issues and campaigns as they unfold. I want to highlight big issues like net zero, debt and deficit, growth strategy, productivity falls  in public service, living standards, bad central banking, the role of so called independent bodies and much else. An election is a good time to get change in party positions and to encourage more differentiation of offer to allow better choice.

How to have lower taxes and faster growth

I have been critical of the government for putting up with unacceptable losses by the Bank of England, the railways, the Post Office, HS 2 and other nationalised concerns. I have criticised the handling and reporting of high borrowings and interest charges. I have highlighted the unaffordable collapse in public sector productivity. I have successfully urged government to find ways to get more people off benefits into work.

The fashionable establishment gloom tells us we need to put up taxes further to alleviate spending pressures, and to cut debt relative to GDP. They refuse to see the imperative need to stop the waste and losses of the public sector or to accept that cutting the right taxes can boost growth and overall tax revenues. The huge cost burden of net zero compounds the problem, seeking to rip out fossil fuel use in the  UK only to import  energy and products at dearer cost from abroad, losing us huge tax revenues.

Labour would make all this worse. They want to end fuel duty sooner by accelerating the end of petrol and diesel cars. They do not propose a replacement tax on the use of electric vehicles. So what would they do about the revenue black hole? They want to find off balance sheet ways to borrow more.They have delayed hugely expensive net zero plans whilst not changing the aims or targets.  They have no plans to boost public sector productivity. They oppose some of the measures to get more people into work.

Their proposal to charge VAT on school fees might produce very little net revenue after allowing for  all the extra  costs of lower income parents switching children  to state schools. Toughening non dom tax just drives more rich people out or keeps  them away, to the point where we get less revenue from them . In the 1970s penal tax on foreigners and high earners led to the brain drain, an exodus of successful people.

Accepting the control of the five year out OBR figure for the deficit is absurd. No-one ¬†knows what the deficit will be in 5 years and government can borrow too much in the four years before the control. The government’s use of this control did not stop a big debt build up. Labour want to double up on OBR influence, though they want to allow more borrowing to “invest”. The way the public sector does that is often a licence to lose money, as with some Council energy and property investments and the Bank’s lamentable bond dealings.

We need a commitment to cut this years deficit by taking the actions on the loss making Bank and nationalised industries I have set out, and by moving fast to return to 2019 levels of public service productivity. We need growth promoting tax cuts.The build up of interest charges can also be curtailed. Why do the main parties ignore many of these billions spent on mismanagement?

Election kicks off with debate about energy

The Uk imports too much energy, making us reliant on the goodwill of foreigners. All parties to the election should renounce the mad carbon accounting which says if you use your own gas you are adding to world CO 2 but if you import the energy you are not. The import model increases world CO 2, costs us lost jobs, means we do not get the large tax revenues on extracting the gas and undermines our energy security.

Labour has come under fire from its own side for ruling out new oil and gas fields. I side with the Unions who say it makes sense to create the jobs and extract the energy at home.

The idea that setting up a Great British Energy nationalised company would solve our shortages and lower prices  is wrong. If you wanted to do this there would need to be a huge expansion in grid capacity to accommodate the switch to electricity. There would need to be plenty of new back up gas fired power stations for when the wind did not blow, or plant for large scale production of hydrogen to fuel home boilers and vehicles. Our current nationalised industries send huge bills to the taxpayer to cover their losses, legal claims against them and their investment programmes.

The Conservatives now say they are net zero realists. They see a need for a rapid roll out of nuclear, a more reliable source of low carbon power. They want more home oil and gas. They need to adjust policies on roll out of EVs, heat pumps and smart meters to reflect consumer choices and realities.

Greens and Lib Dems live in a slogan world where a windmill is the answer to every problem and comes with lower bills. Dream on.

Thank you to Wokingham

I have decided not to put my name forward in the forthcoming election. I have other things I wish to do.

It has been a privilege to represent Wokingham in nine Parliaments. I have drawn many of my campaigns from the views I have heard on doorsteps and read in my email box. We have achieved good things together for our local community and the wider nation.

I was pleased to help local Conservative Council candidates win seats in the recent local elections. We stopped the Lib Dems winning a majority despite their forecasts by highlighting the big damage they are doing to our roads, the money they waste, their neglect of public spaces and the way they are worsening our refuse service.

I will be continuing my website, maybe with some changes. I will continue to contribute to the debates about public policy. Any  references remaining on this site to my work as an MP will after next Thursday be about the past.

 

The government takes action to curb legal migration

 

 

 

The government is taking action to reduce legal migration. The main Opposition parties do  not want to cu back substantially on migration.

 

  • Cutting the number of visa applications across skilled worker, health and care and sponsored study by 25 per cent. Thanks to the changes to visa rules, visa applications across skilled worker, health and care and sponsored study were down by 25 per cent in January to April 2024 compared to last year (Home Office, Official Statistics, 22 May 2024, link).

 

  • Bringing down the number of student dependents applying for visas by 80 per cent, ensuring net migration comes down to sustainable levels. The latest data shows just 8,300 student dependents applied for visas in January to April 2024, a reduction of 80 per cent, down from 38,900 in the same period in 2023 (Home Office, Official Statistics, 22 May 2024, link).

 

  • Driving down the number of health and care visa applications by 76 per cent this year, as we stick to our plan to deliver sustainable staffing levels in our NHS without relying on foreign workers. In January to April 2024, 12,400 people applied for a health and care skilled worker visa, down by 76 per cent compared to the same period last year when applications were at 119,600 (Home Office, Official Statistics, 22 May 2024, link).

 

  • Ensuring 300,000 people who came to the UK last year will not be able to come under our new visa rules, securing a more sustainable level of immigration for the long term. In December 2023 the government¬† announced a plan to cut migration levels and curb abuse of the immigration system. Together, this will mean 300,000 people who came to the UK last year would now not be able to come (HO, Fact Sheet, 1 February 2024, link; Hansard, 25 May 2023, HCWS 800, link; Home Office, News Story, 2 January 2023, link).

 

  • Changing the rules for international students and dependents as of 2024, helping to reduce net migration by an estimated 140,000. Students can bring economic contribution to the UK but should not be at the expense of our commitment to the public to lower overall migration and ensure that migration to the UK is highly skilled, providing the most benefit and helping grow the economy (Hansard, 25 May 2023, HCWS 800, link; Home Office, News Story, 2 January 2023, link).

 

 

 

 

Free Market Roadshow – Legatum Institute

You can find my interview starting at 5:00:00. I gave a talk to Legatum setting out the need for change at the Bank of England. I highlighted their wrong models, poor forecasting of inflation, excessive money creation and their more recent wrongly conceived Quantitative tightening. They have taken over fiscal policy with their huge cash demands on taxpayers to pay their losses.