Who makes a market?


               Left wing critics of  market economics talk about markets as if they were just a small overpaid bunch of bond and currency traders they do not like. Markets are places for us all.  The large financial and banking markets are used by almost everyone. Let him who has no hedge fund to back his pension or no financial product to power his charity throw the first stone.

              The Trade Union which criticises the market often has an investment fund invested in bonds and shares. The Trade Union official who condemns  a market oriented approach will often have an invested pension pot, a mortgage, a credit card and a range of other financial products. The vicar who dislikes global capitalism enjoys money from funds  managed by the Church Commissioners. Unlikely people can have pensions and savings tied up in hedge funds, managed futures and other portfolios using futures, options and geared financial instruments.

              The market serves poor and rich alike. One person’s money is as good as another’s: there is no discrimination. The divergences in choice and lifestyle come from differences in access to funds, not from differences of other treatment.

               A late friend of mine used to host guests from the USSR visiting London in the days of communism. The people allowed to visit were trusted communists. He would take them to Marks and Spencers on Baker Street. They would be bowled over by the range and quality of the products compared to Moscow stores of the time. They would ask if this great shop was reserved for party members or members of various elites. They would be suprised to be told M and S was for everyone.

                My friend would then take them to Harrods. He would say this is where many of the elite shop. They were even more impressed. They were surprised to learn that no regulation  stopped the  unemployed or the former criminal shopping at Harrods, just as nothing  stops the billionaire buying at M and S. The western retail market was much freer and more democratic than their soviet controlled shops.

                  The main argument against capitalism in western democracies is it can leave some people behind, with too little or no income. The great western democracies have moved to tackle this by offering financial help to those who might otherwise get left behind. Anyone with some money can use it to buy whatever they like whenever they like, as long as they can afford it or can  borrow to buy it. Countries that have tried to replace the market by state planning, allocating goods to individuals and families, have usually created lower living standards as well as greatly restricting personal freedoms.

                     The market place is the ultimate democracy. Individuals can express their preferences or offer their services whenever they like. Only in a state planned system do they have to combat rationing, quotas, and  form filling as well as facing  the threat of  criminal penalties if they abuse the system.

                   Democracy understands how outcast people can feel in a wealthy market economy if they have little or no money. That is why all mainstream political parties agree with some redistribution of income and wealth, and all agree with financial assistance to those who cannot provide for themselves. The political debate should not be about the superiority of the enterprise system, or about the desirability of taking care of those who cannot provide for themselves. The debate should be the narrower one of how generous should we be to those who need state support, and how should people qualify for it?

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  1. Mike Stallard
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    I deliberately live among the poor, not the rich. And I could, having had an outstanding education and upbringing, have been rich too! So I have seen both sides.

    The people who are my neighbours are, I suppose, poor, or anyway not rich. But they all work hard and so do their children. They survive terrible catastrophes by just troshing on, like Churchill in the war.

    I have several rich relations. They don’t see themselves as rich at all. Rather they see themselves, like my neighbours, as poor people struggling with life. And they, too, have their catastrophes.

    Then there are people who I do not recognise or mix with. They are the ones who have just given up. You can pour money into their laps – it goes on drugs. You can give them drugs, sympathy or even a good telling off, it is always someone else’s fault, not theirs. And these people make a career of their “Rights”. I meet them sometimes in the streets when they get furiously angry. And I deliberately watch Jeremy Kyle too!

    Why should people like my neighbours pay for their drugs, their laziness or for their feeble excuse, “I was p**sed”?

    And, even more, why should people like my neighbours pay for them to wreck St Paul’s Cathedral or stop the illegal “Travellers” in Basildon being evicted?

    • Disaffected
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      How about the 370,000 households (millions of people) where no one has worked since the age of 16yrs? When is the Government going to do something about this to change the culture? The mindset needs to be change that welfare is temporary and a hand up not hand out forever. Make all those on welfare work and pay the difference between their wage and welfare (to start with), the welfare bill will be reduced and crucially the mindset changed that they have to work. Not to work is not an option.

      These people know they cannot attract a wage that would match their welfare payment, this means to me welfare payments are too high. The last time I worked in, so called, poor areas I still found rows of houses with Sky dishes, mobile phones in abundance (all the family had one), cars and a lot of people smoking. People working on low incomes cannot afford these items!!

      It is about time politicians woke up and understood the value of money in ordinary households. If they had an understanding they would not allow such generous welfare payments. The amount of tax we pay is hideous. Sweden has exempted low paid workers from tax to make it attractive to work rather than claim welfare. The tax thresholds in the UK are completely wrong.

      • lifelogic
        Posted November 9, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        Indeed what about these households I mainly blame that benefit systems rather than the recipients.

        If people are giving away money to encourage you not to work why not take it and have the time to do other things. It is the system that needs attention. Most would vanish of the list if they had to attend and do something each day.

        • uanime5
          Posted November 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

          There already are programs like this called the New Deal and Work Programme where you have to attend daily appointments at private companies. Their success rate (getting people into work) is 6% because they get paid per week, so they have no incentive to get people into work until the last week.

        • Bob
          Posted November 9, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

          Of course you’re right, Labour use welfare as a bribe to attract voters from all over the world. The other parties are forced to compete. We need a root and branch shake up, starting with state schools, otherwise it’s just a race to the bottom (and were nearly there!).

          Maybe we should move to a multiple vote system where you receive enhanced voting power according to your contribution to society, and educational qualifications.

          • uanime5
            Posted November 10, 2011 at 12:41 am | Permalink

            If Labour is bribing people to vote then why has the number of people voting elections been steadily falling for the past 50 years?

          • Bob
            Posted November 10, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

            That can probably be put down to the general malaise that always sets in when living under socialism. This could be cured if there was an incentive for self improvement as opposed to the disincentives that currently reign.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 10, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

            One vote per hundred thousand pounds?

          • lifelogic
            Posted November 11, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Permalink


            Voting is in decline because nearly every one has worked out that it makes virtually no difference to policy – they are nearly all big government socialists or lobby fodder – just different faces.

      • uanime5
        Posted November 9, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

        You really should try to research the problems more. How are people on welfare going to work when there are 2.5 million people unemployed and only 0.5 million jobs available? Where are these jobs magically going to come from?

        If welfare is better than working this means wages are too low, not that welfare is too high. This is because welfare reflects the cost of living. Also claims that the poor are spending their money on things you don’t feel they should be allowed to have isn’t proof that they have too much money.

        You’re right about tax thresholds but one problem you missed is that if a person gets a job and they they work over 16 hours a week they lose all benefits, so for many unemployed people most part time work isn’t economically viable. Fortunately universal credit will actually fix this by gradually withdrawing benefits.

        • lifelogic
          Posted November 9, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

          The number of jobs is not fixed for goodness sake.

          If a company can get say 10% more efficient it can perhaps triple in size by winning a new export order then employ more people and they spend more and it then snowballs.
          Or a company like HSBC might double its activity in the UK or another might move here – if they did not have to pay 50% taxes on wages and have endless regulations.

          You just need to get the state out of the way and off their backs. The jobs will follow as night follows day.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 10, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

            You actually believe this? Who pays 50% tax on their wages? They often get 10% more efficient by sacking large numbers of people and flogging and cutting the wages those still there to desperate for other work.
            The state got out of the way of banks like HSBC and look what happened. They went bust sacked large numbers of their workforce and charged their customers even more!

          • lifelogic
            Posted November 11, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

            Sure I believe it – I could certainly double production and staff in no time if we have less parasitic government, more funding and fewer regulations to carry thus lower costs and hence more orders.

            HSBC certainly did not go bust it is one of the stronger banks yes it charges more because the competition have reduced so it can.

            If you had a car to sell or money to lend would you sell it to the best offer or take the lowest?

      • Bazman
        Posted November 9, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

        Not only they have to be poor, but are also not allowed to watch SKY which I would argue is a symptom of poverty in itself.
        If a a wage cannot match welfare payments then maybe wages are to low? Thought of that one? Many do not even want to see a minimum wage. Square that one off? You assume life is just one long holiday on benefits. Take a look at many of the recipients. Easy life? You answers imply the usual argument of making desperate people more desperate and somehow their lives will improve. They will not and you can be sure their desperation will effect the rest of the population in their hard working and in your cases cushy middle class lives. Both cases being victims of circumstance as much as lifestyle ‘choice’

        • lifelogic
          Posted November 9, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

          I agree wages are too low and job competition (more job choice available) will push them up. Hence government needs to get out of the way. It is government that keeps them so low by killing growth.

          • Bob
            Posted November 10, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

            The wages would be higher if HMR&C reduced their cut.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 10, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

            Growth increases wages? Pure fantasy as the last ten years have proved with the erosion of pay. You just come out with it.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 11, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

            %0% of six quid? A kings ransom no less!

          • lifelogic
            Posted November 11, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Permalink


    • uanime5
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      Well why don’t you become a social worker and try working with these people. You may find out that it’s difficult to get a job if you have a disability, physical or mental illness, no work experience, criminal record, are an addict, or are illiterate or innumerate. Also bullying them won’t magically fix any of these problem.

      In conclusion either come up with a viable way to help them or stop whining about it.

      • lifelogic
        Posted November 9, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

        Clearly some will he hard but most not.

  2. lifelogic
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    As you say:- The debate should be the narrower one of how generous should we be to those who need state support, and how should people qualify for it?

    This is a far worse problem with the free movement of people within the EU it become impossible to provide a decent level those who cannot provide for themselves.

    At the moment the financial difference, for most people with a young family, on normal wages, between working and not working is virtually nothing after allowing for work clothes, travel, childcare and lunches.

    If however they had a sensible small government, were pro business and controlled the borders they could get unemployment down to sensible levels of perhaps 200,000 or so rather than 2.6M.

    About .3% of the population as sensible, well run, countries have. Of course if we continue with socialist Cameron type big government, HS2, nonsense green energy, chucking money down the PIGIS drain, daft employment laws, an over paid state sector, over controlled planning, the EU straight jacket, restricting airport growth ….. then we will soon have 3M+ unemployed.

    Clearly Cameron wants this judging by his actions.

    • alan jutson
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 8:13 am | Permalink


      I see from todays Telegraph that Germany’s top banker as responded to Mr Cameron’s request for Germany to do more to bail out the EU.

      Jens Weidmann head of the Bundesbank said any move to leverage Europes Euro 440 million recscue fund through central bank financing would be a clear violation of the ECB’s mandate.

      Article 123 of the EU treaty imposed a legal “Prohibition on Monetary financing”

      Mr Weidemann said Germany learnt the bitter lesson under the Weimar Republic that funding public debt “via the money printing press” leads to hyperinflation and disaster.

      Are you listening Mr Cameron, Mr Osbourne.

      As has been said many, many times on this site.

      Governments need to get spending under control.

      • lifelogic
        Posted November 9, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        Indeed fire one in two in the state sector most would not notice, cancel HS2, get rid of green nonsense, renegotiate or get out of the EU, stop the PIGIS funding and sort out mad regulations & restrictive planning laws.

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      Lifelogic – Mr Cameron IS being judged by his actions (or lack of them)

      The Theresa May Fiasco has put the tin hat on it. Henceforth if DC does something about uncontrolled immigration it will be because he had to be forced to consider the subject by public petition.

      I was accused of talking ‘guff’ on these pages recently. I’d like to point out that my past predictions have proven to be far more prescient than any government forecast.

      My views about coming conflict between disparate cultural and religious groups on this island stand and are widely held.

      Nobody voted for this.

      The choices on offer were:

      Red – with mass immigration

      Yellow – with mass immigration

      and now we know that it was Blue – with mass immigration. Because that’s precisely what we have and it won’t change.

      Therefore I conclude (ad nauseum) that it is disingenuous to discuss social economic policy without stable population levels with no idea as to how many or who is going to be here.

      It is the most serious issue to be discussed if we are to agree that – in a democracy – markets are there to serve the people as a whole and not the other way around.

      (We are not given credit for not voting BNP. Instead this is added to the ‘mandate’ for more mass immigration)

      PS, Always interested in your views.

      • lifelogic
        Posted November 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        Indeed – but DC cannot do anything about EU immigration. I am not against immigration but we need to be in control and decide who we want and how long we want them.

        People likely to earn less than around130% of average salary (as most immigrants clearly do) probably cost more rather more on average than they contribute certainly if they have children and elderly relatives and thus make average standard of living decline as we have seen.

        • Electro-Kevin
          Posted November 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

          Lifelogic – Your point taken about the dictats of the EU. So let’s change our relationship with the EU.

          I work with employees from Eastern and Southern Europe and very nice they are too. I seem to have more affinity with them than many English people in fact.

          My concerns aren’t racial but are with regard to the lack of assymilation on the one hand and sheer numbers on the other. The good will in the multi-racially integrated country which I grew up in (with black teachers and boxing coaches, an Asian GP and dentist – my school 40% Afro Carribean) has been abused and, I fear, damaged.

          It matters not what the minimum wages are – UK workers are quite often being displaced on to benefits even where immigrants are able to cover their own contributions. (That our own people might not be as good needs to be addressed too.)

          Clearly our concerns will go unheeded and we’ll go on with record levels of immigration (a degree of exponentiality in that too) because:

          A) Many of our ruling class like it

          B) Others in our ruling class are paralysed for fear of accusations of racialism

        • Bazman
          Posted November 9, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

          Cheap labour for business though.

          • Electro-Kevin
            Posted November 10, 2011 at 10:53 am | Permalink

            Bazman – With the costs of UK unemployed displaced onto the taxpayer and and the attendant social ills that comes with it.

            This is a good example of where tax funded socialism has been used by capitalists to subsidise their businesses indirectly.

            You’ve had your meal served by a respectful and competent Latvian ? Don’t forget to add the taxes you pay towards welfare on your bill.

            This system has kept work here. It’s kept Britain moving. However the method is reaching tipping point whereby levels of taxation are having to increase to cover it; this at the same time as standards of living are being driven down through overcrowding and increased demands on our resources.

            Expect worse. Much worse as eurozone countries fail and are forced into austerity and their goodly young seek better lives for themselves elsewhere.

    • lifelogic
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Reported today for HSBC:

      The cost of UK regulatory reform (to HSBC) could be as high as $2.5 billion, and that it might move its headquarters out of the country where it has been based for the last 20 years or so.

      Perhaps time to buy their shares if they are considering this?
      How much tax income lost and how many jobs would go from London I wonder? Cameron needs to get a grip now.

      • APL
        Posted November 9, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        HSBC: ” ..and[HSBC] might move its headquarters out of the country where it has been based for the last 20 years or so. ”

        Let’s see it go back to Hong Kong, now of course no longer administered by the light touch of the British, but by the velvet clad Iron fist of the totalitarianism Communist party of China.

        Yea, good luck with that HSBC.

        Singapore? Of course, in the past Singapore was thought impossible to defend. So good luck with that too!

        • sm
          Posted November 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

          They have serious penalties in Singapore.
          Didn’t a certain trader do time in Singapore?

        • Acorn
          Posted November 9, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

          The boss has already moved to HK earlier this year. They are moving the whole outfit east; that’s where they see future business.

          • APL
            Posted November 10, 2011 at 10:01 am | Permalink

            Acorn: ” … that’s where they see future business.”

            Well that implies a stable commerce friendly scocio political climate. Yea, that’s gonna happen!

            China’s economy is vastly more over-leaveradged than any in the West, they have enormous mis-allocation of resources and a huge hungry population. Not to mention a massive imbalance in the sex ratio a result of the one child per family policy of the Communist party.

            What is the traditional use a country puts its surplus young men to?

    • uanime5
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Please explain how a small, pro-business government will magically create 2.4 million jobs or reduce the population by this many people. Especially since the current Government will have to fire a lot of people to become a small Government.

      • lifelogic
        Posted November 9, 2011 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

        They reduce the government size and can then lower taxes with the wages saved. The businesses then have lower cost and can win more international business employ more also more businesses come less leave – quite simple.

    • Tim
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      “Countries that have tried to replace the market by state planning, allocating goods to individuals and families, have usually created lower living standards as well as greatly restricting personal freedoms”…………………..otherwise known as the “EU” Mr Redwood!!

    • Bazman
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

      More brainlessness. The immigrants were a source of cheap labour for business. How do you think a rich country like Germany with generous benefits controls immigration? Lets face it they cannot control the borders as they would simply just walk further up the road Have a think lifelogic instead of just coming out with pro business police state nonsense and then talking about being ‘sensible’.

  3. Mike Stallard
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 7:31 am | Permalink
    • lifelogic
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      Indeed over paid state sector unions (government subsidised too by paid time) and their influence over the Labour partly is one of the great evils that need to be tackled urgently.

      First make firing people very cheap for everyone then stop the union subsidy then get sensible people in place at the BBC rather than Lord Patten types. Then sort out state sector over pay and pensions and stop the unfair union influence on the labour party. Parties should represent all the voters and members not the tiny number who work for Unison.

      • uanime5
        Posted November 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        Should parties also represent all the voters and members not the tiny number who donate ‘campaign funds’ to them?

      • Bazman
        Posted November 9, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

        Desperate peole climbing over desperate peole everyone in fear for their job. No? I would reach for may wallet to get some workers rights. The Tory party is the political wing of the City.
        Answer how there can be more cleaning jobs than cleaners? How would working people have any voice and be able to fight exploitation from business without a union? They can’t is the simple answer, as weak as union are. Have you thought through what would happen to the average person and the economy if they could be fired at will? As I have pointed out to you. I would be the one doing the sacking, that’s if I bothered to turn up for such an employer. I might turn up to see what I could steal though.

  4. Peter Moring
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    An excellent, concise post that lays out ‘exactly’ the benefits of the Capitalist system.
    People are being systematically ‘tuned out’ from recognising the benefits that The Market actually brngs to normal, everyday people by the left-wing do-gooders who have a vested interest of their own which is usually ‘monetary’ based.
    However! …. This Government is doing itself no good at all and infact it’s helping to prop up the anti-capitalist argument by applying too many benefit cuts and altering the benefits system so that perfectly ‘HONEST’ and Needy people will find themselves homeless (and worse) because of them. This will add fuel to the fire and the anti-capitalists will just say “We told you the system was broke and unworkable”.

    This Government needs to wake up and smell the coffee – That is of course unless ‘THEY’ actually have an agenda to see our once great nation collapse into Anarchy, because that IS what will happen. People can take just so much, and when pushed into a corner will fight ferociously to survive.

    What is the point of having a Capitalist system that is supposed to be the best (and I do think it is) if that system actually ‘Drives’ vast numbers into poverty. That CANNOT be seen to be the case or the Loonie-Lefties won’t even need to fight their corner, there will be millions clamouring for ‘The Better Way’ – Not Good!

    Cheers – Pete.

  5. Ian Wragg
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    I agree with the Chinese minister. Europe is lazy due to overgenerous benefits and it’s immoral to expect poor countries to bail us out.

  6. Javelin
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Markets boil down to how much is it worth?

    A lot of markets lend money (bond, equity, money markets etc) and the borrower has to pay something for that loan. Nobody is forcing you to take the loan out?

    A lot of Governments have borrowed so much the lenders now don’t believe they can full fill their side of the deal. Hence the price of borrowing goes up. Governmentsfox the rate of return on bonds – hence the price of the bond changes. Governments ate h
    beholden to those they borrow from as well as voters. If voters don’t like that then they need to vote for a party who doesn’t borrow.

    New Labour over spent and over borrowed. So did most EU countries. New Labour taxed the private sector and did not nurture it. We are up sh!t creek without a paddle thanks to them. If the public vote them in again they are asking for more of the same. We could all see this coming since 1996.

    Of course the Market needs to be regulated. There can be cheats, insider dealers. There can be trickster, putting nearly hidden clauses in contracts. Some prey on the vulnerable, such as loan sharks. Some borrow too much. Morals are relevant in regulations.

    But a Government cannot complain about the markets treating them unfairly for borrowing too much. Governments are big boys and law makers and should know how markets Work.

    Sure you can complain about shorting. But it’s in a traders best interest to price their instrument accurately otherwise they will make a loss.

    After all the analysis it comes down to me lending you money at a fair price and you paying me back at the fair rate.

    • javelin
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      As a I said before people want their money back if its going to make a loss.

      What VERY important to understand in the EuroZone is that when a recession happens there are reverse capital flows (i.e people pulling out the markets).

      If the EuroZone was not here Italy would be able to lower its exhange rates and therefore lower the value of assets to foreign investors. However, what we see today is other EZ and non-EZ member reversing their capital BECAUSE the FX rate hasnt budged.

      If the Italian FX rate had fallen by 20% then their investments would be worth 20% less and so people would not sell them so readily. Its a “no brainer” to sell your Italian assets becaus the Germans are keeping the FX rate high.

      People have spoken about FX rates helping exporters – but they also help to export capital and compound a recession. That is the fundemental problem with the EuroZone. You have to be prepared for much bigger boom and busts.

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted November 9, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        Thank God for Black Wednesday and Mr Soros (who made £1,000,000,000 on the day apparently!).

  7. NickW
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    The functioning of the markets has a lot in common with the theory of evolution.

    Those species most fitted to survive in their own environment, do so. There is no moral judgement involved, evolution just IS. What evolution does is to ensure that at any given time, each living organism has the maximum chances of survival in its niche environment, under conditions optimal for life.

    If we were to interfere in the process of evolution, we would bring about a situation whereby “suffering” was increased by the fact that species were less and less adapted for survival in their environment.

    (I don’t, by the way regard creationism and evolution as mutually exclusive. In my life I have learned more and more about the complex mechanisms of living organisms, and am left firstly, with a sense of wonder, and secondly with a degree of incredulity that all this is supposed to have happened by chance.)

    When regulators interfere in markets, they are interfering in the evolution of businesses and organisations, affecting not only the degree to which each individual business is fitted for survival, but also degrading the business environment as a whole.

    One is left with a suspicion that were present Governments responsible for evolution, they would still be trying to keep the dinosaurs alive and would be legislating to protect the interests of plague germs and hordes of locusts.

    On the whole, financial regulation should achieve its purpose by exerting evolutionary pressure in the right direction, and that which is unfitted to survive MUST be allowed to die, and not be bailed out by the taxpayer.

    • stred
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Yesterday, (two people-ed) had half and hour on R4 to denigrate Capitalism. (One) seems to be one of those many Communists who would like the system re introduced, but has never had to suffer under it.

      I once went on a walk over the Downs with two academics who I knew had similar political views. I thought I would mention the latest Sky TV advert, which showed Stalin giving a voice-over speech in which he was selling the station. I thought they might have found it funny too. However, they both found it disrespectful and pointed out that Uncle Joe had done many good things that I was ignorant of.

      It looks as though the latest money grabbing by the top bankers, and stock exchange traders with yet more staggering increases for bosses of companies with little competition, all justified by highly paid consultants to their cartel, will give an impetus to the communists who have been waiting for the system to run into trouble.

      As to evolution on a human level, if the hard working can afford fewer children than the feckless, I think we will have reverse evolution, favouring the less able and in the end the sub species will die out.

  8. Gary
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Redistribution has a few obvious conundrums

    1. There must be an inherent mistrust of human nature, that someone must step in and redistribute.

    2. There is an implication that the redistributer is altruistic and benevolent.

    3. Someone who has worked for it ,will have their property confiscated.

    4 who are the needy , and how do you get consensus ?

    5. When does redistribution become cronyism ?

    6. How do corporate lobbyists and future job prospects for the redistributers effect redistribution ?

    Essentially, all the questions you can ask of any government. Experience has shown that govts answer these questions very poorly.

  9. Alan Wheatley
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Me thinks that if everyone understood compound interest the world would be a different place!

    • lifelogic
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      Indeed also probability (so not to gamble on Major’s National Lottery and similar), game theory and inflation and the pernicious role of the state/charities and the BBC in encouraging the feckless and thus destroying their lives and encouraging lifelong dependence and the evil politics of envy.

      Human nature and the power of working with it rather than against it too.

    • Bazman
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

      Bank do and that is why your savings interest rate is so low.

  10. oldtimer
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I think it is worth adding that markets have existed ever since homo sapiens has walked this earth from 150,000-200,000 years ago. Adam Smith had yet to write the Wealth of Nations but our ancient ancestors well understood the benefits of specialisation. Furthermore, judging by the wide range of artifacts found at archeological digs that can only have come from distant places, “globalisation” and trade was already alive and well. It is surprising that some people still find this difficult to understand.

  11. Julian
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    You don’t have to anti-capitalist to think there’s something wrong. Maybe the market is just not as free as it should be. The Washington Post reports that Wall St firms made more money in the two and a half years since Obama was elected than in Bush’s eight years (http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/wall-streets-resurgent-prosperity-frustrates-its-claims-and-obamas/2011/10/25/gIQAKPIosM_story.html).

    Governments bailed out the financial institutions and removed the risks of operating in a market.

    • forthurst
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      “Governments bailed out the financial institutions and removed the risks of operating in a market.”

      In the US the private secret Fed bought fraudulent mortgage securites from financial institutions whose relationship with the Fed is unclear because of its private secret essence and charged those sweetheart deals to the US Taxpayer on the authorisation of Congress.

      In the UK, the same criminal nexus does not pervade the BoE, the Treasury and the banks, so the arrangements were slightly different.

  12. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    There are markets and markets. Nobody would have lashed out at bankers and hedgefundmanagers if the highest possible bonuses had been less than a month’s salary like in a normal society. Being able to take huge risks with other people’s money with only personal upsides (the downsides for your clients or the general public) is another illness that needs curing. Just like it has taken more than 30 years for business to realise that there might be some sense in going for green technologies, it may take at least a generation to get a paradigm shift in the financial markets away from perverse casino behaviour. I’m confident that it will happen though, as personal greed is not the one and only motivator in society. (yes – with the demise of Thacherism, this word “society”, which translates in Dutch as “living together”, may yet experience a revival)

    Reply: society has always been important to Conservative thinking- but we believe it is different from the state.

    • forthurst
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      Society has been abolished and replaced by ‘communities’. Please keep up.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      I know this isn’t going to be popular with you, but I want to say it because, I reckon, it is the truth.
      In our village in the Fens (drained by a Dutchman in the 17th century) we have a mediaeval Church which, until twenty years ago was the centre of social life here. Jumble sales, pantomimes, children’s creches, wedding parties and funerals were celebrated and marked there and afterwards in the Church Hall.
      Now both are virtually shut. There is no Vicar to visit round the parish, to collect up choir people, to start up a football team for the boys, to start up little clubs for the elderly.
      So they just do not happen. (Quiet a lot of arson now though).
      I am not sure that you can just turn society on and off like a tap myself. It could be a gift, you know. And, wonderful and powerful as Mrs Thatcher was, I do not think she ever came to our village.

      • Bazman
        Posted November 9, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

        That progress Mike and it is all for the best. Your hero claimed there no such thing as society even when there clearly is.

        • Mark
          Posted November 10, 2011 at 12:40 am | Permalink

          Here is what she said:

          “They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations, because there is no such thing as an entitlement unless someone has first met an obligation.”

          Do you consider that there should be entitlements without obligations? That legitimises theft – use of goods without payment, for example.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 10, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

            Well Thatcher certainly increased the sense of entitlement at all levels and a sense of desperation at lower levels.

  13. Aatif Ahmad
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    A truly free marketplace is even fairer than democracy since many of its rewards go to the lucky, rather than the connected/privileged, and luck does not discriminate between rich and poor. It can bring down the rich and raise up the poor.

    This is why entrepreneurship is so important. It gives people without family wealth, connections or privileged upbringings the chance to become wealthy (Alan Sugar, Zuckerberg spring to mind). Something that wouldn’t be possible in a democracy that follows a socialist economic model with government intervention and red tape.

    • uanime5
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Actually a truly ‘free’ market is closer to an absolute monarchy than a democracy. Without regulations companies form cartels or monopolies, then crush any new entries. So if Alan Sugar or Zuckerberg had operated in a truly free market they would have (found the going tougher-ed – The two mentioned people complied with competition law) after their first year.

      • Robert K
        Posted November 10, 2011 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        Not at all. There is no such thing as a natural monopoly. The only way for a monopoly to exist is if it is imposed by the state.

  14. Ferdinand
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    You are of course right and modern communications have made the market more effective by bringing greater numbers of sellers and buyers together. However those same modern devices have created envy and dissatisafaction in the minds of those “left behind” such as to instill in them a sense of injustice which is not really deserved. “Ignorance is bliss” is a well known saying and for those who live a simple life demanding little of society’s wealth it is a worthy condition. Dr.Rhodes Boyson once said to me that he never knew he was poor till someone told him.

    • Bazman
      Posted November 10, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      They have higher expectations and quite rightly so.

  15. Neil Craig
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I remember reading a similar story about a Canadian years later being gteted by Gorbachev whom, when he was more junior, he had taken round Canadian stores. I think such influences, at all levels, played an enormous amount in bringing down the USSR I know a reverse of this – a story about a midnight caviar party because a spiv had been left with an enormous jar of caviar and had no fridge to keep it in – played a part in ending my youthful enthusiasm for planning.

    However virtually 50% of our economy is state spending and worse, the rest is massively handicapped by regulations that prevent the market working – that our electricity prices would be cut by 93% in truly free market being the most obvious example. By objective terms on the range from Hong Kong to the USSR we are far closer to the latter and well to the “left” of China.

    • uanime5
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      No in a free market energy companies would form a cartel and continue to raise prices, rather than collude and continue to raise prices.

      Free market does not mean ‘gives the customer the best possible deal’ if means ‘lets businesses make as much money as possible’.

      • lifelogic
        Posted November 9, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

        lets businesses make as much money as possible yes – but within the legal framework, competition laws and similar.

        • Bazman
          Posted November 10, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

          Companies do not want a free market. They want no competition and if left to their own devices a winner emerges who tries to stop any competition by buying them up.

      • Alan Wheatley
        Posted November 10, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

        You can not, by definition, have a cartel in a market that is “free”. “Free” must simultaneously apply to both buyers and sellers.

        If a business makes too much profit there is an opportunity for a different business to undercut them and take their customers, and still make a reasonable profit.

        • Bazman
          Posted November 10, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

          Or buy up their rivals has as happened with many products. Or using their profits to sell at a loss and then when smaller rivals cannot compete and give up raise prices even higher. It ain’t rocket science and your belief in this is laughable.

  16. niconoclast
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    If you defend Capitalism and at the end declare that a person’s need should be a claim on the lives of others and the only question is how much the State should help them you are not a Capitalist but a Socialist.This is the Redwood dilemna.You cannot argue for Capitalism and then concede the main Socialist argument namely that a person’s need should be a mortgage on the lives of others.It is like having a debate defending the virtues of vegetarianism and then conceding its ok to go to Macdonalds whenever the fancy takes you.There is no hope for Conservatives if the most intellectual and thoughful of their kind can make such a catastrophic sloppy elemental intellectual error.

    Reply: I have no problem with welcoming the idea that a democracy does wish to help those who cannot provide for themselves.

    • Bazman
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

      In a nutshell: Have nothing and be happy with it. The problem is that people with nothing are rarely happy and seek ways to equalise the game. What do they have to loose? A game they are loosing?
      Still waiting for your reply as to what welfare will be replaced with niconoclast? Nothing? A Job? Other money? Or a big stick? Got to be one.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted November 10, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Helping those in need can be seen as good capitalism; an investment to move the needy to the self sufficient and thereby increase the size of the market. Can’t win ’em all, of course, but worth a punt!

  17. sm
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Markets serve rich and poor – depending on your access to money- you said it.

    Then why allow private banks to create it? and then charge interest on it? Why are to big to fail companies too big , forget the market think democracy.

    This ability to create money with limited competition surely creates an enormous powerbase for lobbying of government- game over.

    Imagine that banks had to intermediate only and could not create money, (like some new internet lenders), the banks would have no economic choice but to become efficient and cost effective.

    Bonuses and high pay would be much less of an issue as competition would drive the monopoly profits/losses out.

    Markets should serve society and not vested insider interests. The markets seem to have been cornered and captured by powerful interests not much interested in society unless it serves them. Pensions have been a ball of fish to be fed on by financial big fish and government. What on earth is the rational to save income into a private pension for the 80% of earners ? (High charges,inflexible benefits, tax raids on real funded schemes,high means tests,inflation,low annuities and regressive taxation). A government job/pension is a very rational choice for a low to average earner.

    The productive economy has been financialized and price signals are manipulated today with breathtaking audacity for political ends which are not imho really under democratic control.

  18. outsider
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    While agreeing with your main point, may I suggest that when Margaret Thatcher made her gaffe – and it was an historically toxic gaffe – about there being no such thing as society, I believe that she was railing against the claims of Liberal elite groups, such as the Church of England, the BBC, mainstream charities and the arts establishment, to represent “society” and to judge what was good or bad for “society”, rather than the ordinary people who actually make up society.

    Had she thought and chosen her words more carefully, I feel that her point would be even more valid today, although the groups that claim to determine what “society” thinks, might be somewhat broader, encompassing, for instance, the European Commission, the European Parliament and various anti-liberal “ban-it” lobby groups.

    From the opposite end of the spectrum, it would be equally false to think that editorials in tabloid newspapers represent what “society” thinks.

    • outsider
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      This was meant to be in response to Peter van Leeuven.

    • Kenneth
      Posted November 9, 2011 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

      I think this ‘gaffe’ was blown out of proportion. As I remember she was fed the line from Brian Walden, an ex Labour man who interviewed her on tv.

      I think she lost patience with him. I don’t blame her. He was the chap who started the awful trend of interviewers getting more air time with their questions than the interviewee did with the answers.

  19. forthurst
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    “They were surprised to learn that no regulation stopped the unemployed or the former criminal shopping at Harrods”

    Harrods not an ‘Oligarch’ free zone? I particular recommend the cotton shirt/Filipino maid combos.

    To discuss the benefits of a market economy over alternatives whilst ignoring market abuses is doing a disservice to the evaluation of a significant dichotomy.

    Should markets regulate themselves as some suggest? There has been a manifestation of an entirely unregulated market recently after the breakup of the Bolshevik empire, so those who believe in ultimate ‘deregulation’ presumably are prepared for bodies in the streets and the most evil people acquiring all the loot followed by ‘political asylum’ and shopping at Harrods.

    If a new gizmo is brought to market, its possible lack of success primarily affects the company that marketed it. However, if a new drug is brought to market, its success or otherwise primarily affects those who take it, in the case of Thalidomide, egregiously so. That is why, although Drug companies are part of the market economy, their products are not freely available without regulatory interposition. Such should be the case with the ‘products’ of the financial services companies; if incorrectly specified or sold, they can do a great deal of harm, and in the case of the CDOs (and naked CDOs) based on sub-prime mortgages (which were fraudulent in any case), they can wreck the World economy.

    We need the creators of industrial products and services (new and improved hairstyles) to innovate; but by the same token why would we want our financial service providers to constantly introduce new and possibly less satisfactory ‘products’. Surely, our requirements of a bank are more or less what they have always been: a safe haven for our savings and a source of finance when we have a worthwhile investment proposition. Why would we want our bank to indulge in activitiy that might put our savings at risk or prevent them making loans because they have ‘invested’ their assets in CDOs of dubious value?

    What about the markets for stocks and for commodities. Individuals and pension funds need to invest with a potential for growth; why should they be obliged to deal with a computer programme screwed into the exchange designed to mislead and trick them into making a less advantageous deal than in a free and fair market? Producers need to sell their produce and manufacturers need to acquire the raw materials from which to satisfy the comnsumer marketplace, but why should those with no interest in the production or consumption of a commodity, be able to manipulate the market to expropriate value that rightly belongs to those participants who actually do add value?

    Market exchanges and the creators of financial ‘products’ need far more supervision and regulation than producers and manufacturers to enable them to be beneficial rather than detrimental to the rest of the economy.

    Reply: Financial products are regulated, and more tightly for the general public than the “professionals”

    • forthurst
      Posted November 10, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      ‘Professional products’ need at least as much regulation as consumer products. It became clear during the banking crisis that regulators had never heard of the ‘products’ which effectively destroyed our financial system; not good enough.

      Furthermore, there is little point in setting maximum fees for professionally managed products if the managers can then lend out stock to damage their clients portfolio, pay a 10% fee on ‘hedge fund’ investments etc. Markets need to be far more geared towards investors and companies needing investment, and commodity users and companies with commodities to sell, than to short term speculators who are simply parasites adding costs to legitimate market participants.

  20. Michael
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    The free markets have done a great deal for us, it’s a shame so many people now think that government can do better when history has proved beyond doubt that, in reality, they can’t manage the simplest of tasks. All the intervention and interference in our lives over the past decades has led to vested interests being able to corner markets and manipulate laws.
    You are arguing for small government and less regulation.

  21. Kenneth
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    In my view the criteria for state support should be destitution. Families should be the first financial port of call for funds. We should not be bypassing them.

    I also think that a Conservative government has a duty to look at privileges afforded to large corporations who seem to have a direct line to government either through lobbying, helping to draft regulations or, nowadays an actual hotline to ministers via the telephone.

    We are in danger of allowing large corporations to:

    Gain market advantage or market protection
    Benefit from excessive regulations through scale of economies

    Notable problems are the

    – common agriculture policy
    – financial threshold for new financial institutions to join the market
    – PFI deals favouring large players.
    – protection for branded drugs
    – gaining advantages through planning regulations
    – having full access to public grant and cheap loans using dedicated staff
    – market protection by having tight product specifications from Brussels

    Markets should be organic but all the above exert unnatural influence – not market influence – which ultimately damages the free market and the wider economy.

    For starters, do not install the telephone hotlines to ministers. CEOs will move heaven on earth to improve profits in their own company. I do not blame them one but bit it doesn’t help me if what they decide is to my detriment and to the detriment of the country.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted November 10, 2011 at 9:40 am | Permalink


      There are complaints from smaller companies that Broadband Delivery UK are not prepared to consider their bids for funds.

      It is no good the government encouraging banks to lend to SMEs if they themselves (and their agents) consider them too small to be bothered with as contractors.

    • Bazman
      Posted November 10, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

      Destitution? In what sense? Total poverty with no shelter, food or healthcare? Not for the likes of you Ken and this is the main reason I for one would not accept destitution for myself and my family and the health risks this would entail. I am not accepting anything like this from people who will never have to face these circumstances and certainly not by their own wit. Personal? You bet it is.
      I would be looking to equalise using other means like millions of others, and quite rightly so. We stopped living in Victorian times years ago.

  22. Andrew Smith
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Those who criticise derivatives and CDS also want “investment”, international trade and prosperity.

    But when large scale overseas investments take place they usually involve international lenders. Those lenders may be prepared to take the risks on the investment but not on loical interest rates, exchange rates etc. They need structured products to take out these risks – doing nothing is not a neutral act.

    Self-appointed experts in the CofE and in the media are a menace and their recommendations would drive us back to the levels of income last seen here in the 1950s. Maybe that is what they want.

  23. Bazman
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    John Redwood is repeating an old Tory trick of comparing a ‘market’ to a market. I am always suspicious of simple answers to complicated problems. The next trick is to blame the workforce and the poor and put the cost of the ‘mistakes’ on them.

  24. Andrew
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    JR you write that “The marketplace is the ultimate democracy” .

    Surely democracy itself is the ultimate democracy , based as it is upon universal suffrage and one person one vote ?

    This coming weekend we will of course once again be remembering and honouring the sacrifices made to preserve our democratic freedooms. In 1940, particuarly , we in these islands turned back Nazi Germany’s seemingly inexorable march of conquest and altered the course of history in favour of democracy . Strange as it may seem now ,in the 1930’s it did sometimes seem to some people that “Signor” Mussolini and “Herr” Hitler (as they were often described then) were the men of the future with all the ideas. We demonstrated the resilience of democratic governance in our “Finest Hour”.

    The market mechanism is something different surely . It is a mechanism for optimising, in every sense , the delivery of goods and services . As you say, — these days all three main parties (and most smaller ones ) support the market mechanism, differing only in degree and detail (albeit in some significant detail sometimes). In the market some peoople have more power than others. It is not one person , one (market )”vote”.

    The market is a powerful and ingenious concept, –but it should not be confused with the equally powerful and resilient political system which has underpinned our history.

  25. PeterMartin
    Posted November 10, 2011 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    The snag with this argument is that the volume of currency trading is enough to finance world trade 20 times over. Only a small percentage of orders for commodities: coal, copper, oil, cocoa etc actually result in a delivery. Every coffee bean is bought and sold 30 times before it ever sees the inside of a cup.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted November 10, 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink


      Why is “free trade” coffee (producer-wholesaler-supermarket-consumer) not much cheaper on the supermarket shelf?

      • Bazman
        Posted November 10, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

        Errr.. Lets think. Would it be because the workers are paid a guaranteed and living wage instead of being told by middle men that times are tough. For them times are always tough. High coffee price to expensive. Low coffee prices to cheap.
        Before anyone says I should buy free trade everything. You are talking bol908’s and if you are to thick to see why that’s your problem. How do you hold down your cushy job?

        • Alan Wheatley
          Posted November 11, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

          Bazman, as you seem to know so much about this, I would be interested in your description of all 30 trades the coffee bean passes through on the way to the cup, including who gets the profits at each step.

          • James Reade
            Posted November 15, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

            To be fair, Bazman didn’t say there were 30 trades. So the point here is equal power within market transactions. Another one on the list below that I didn’t mention. When there is unequal power, as arguably there is in situations like this, then those selling (the coffee beans) arguably have little if any liberty.

            PeterMartin made the point about speculation meaning that these 30 trades happen. There is fundamentally nothing wrong with speculation where it brings the price to its appropriate, market induced level. Of course, that’s a big if given the point about market power…

            So the question, really, for John is: Should we really be limiting ourselves to benefits and how and when they are distributed? Should we not also be thinking about ensuring equal power in all markets such that abuses can’t take place?

  26. Bazman
    Posted November 10, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    I see Virgin Trains cleaners got a 10% pay rise their employer being part of Tory donor Lord Ashcrofts empire. The 300 cleaners were paid £6.52 per hour will now get £7.15. They won the deal two days before another 48 hour strike.
    Anyone think they where wrong not to accept their £6.15 and be happy with it?
    £7.15 a bit excessive?

  27. James Reade
    Posted November 15, 2011 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    A market is a collection of individuals who trade because they are able to agree on a mutually beneficial price for the object of their interest. Aggregated up, markets perform perfectly well when there’s a lot of suppliers (and buyers) such that no one can influence the market price or engage in any other kind of shoddy illegal behaviour and get away with it. As John puts it, “One person’s money is as good as another’s: there is no discrimination.”

    They also perform well when all participants have perfect information – they are well informed about what it is they are purchasing.

    They also perform well if there are no missing markets, i.e. things for which nobody can buy even though they are willing to pay for it – peace and quiet, for example. Economists often call these things externalities, and they can be negative too – e.g. pollution.

    If these things hold then, yes, “The market place is the ultimate democracy”, to quote John again.

    Now even if the latter two fail, there are market solutions that can work perfectly well – used-car warranties, PC magazines to inform us, and trading property rights (assuming they can be allocated).

    But that still leaves vast swathes of activity where these kinds of assumptions fail, and where as a result, the idea that the market provides man with the most liberty is abundantly misleading. The idea I have more liberty because I was able to be duped into that dodgy heathcare decision by that dodgy provider that then left me with permanent and painful complications is just one example where liberty has left the room.

    So I suspect here is where John and I agree that something may need to be done. One quibble though is the statement that “Only in a state planned system … as well as facing the threat of criminal penalties if they abuse the system.” – do you really mean that, John? I’m sure you can’t be advocating that in a market system there be no threat of penalties if they abuse the system? Even hardcore libertarians would like a residual state to act as game keeper, and I don’t think you’re as hardcore as them – else you wouldn’t be a politician…

    But according to your post John, the only thing left then is redistribution of one form or another, for either worklessness or illness, yet are you really suggestion nothing else ought to be done? That the healthcare market in particular isn’t in need of any state intervention, even if it’s just to regulate minimum standards, or stipulate mandatory health insurance?

    The questions is much more broad than how generous and how should folk qualify for benefits. It is when should we intervene, and how best should we do it, in the functioning of markets. My hope is, for example, that you aren’t supporting this motion going through the newsreels today about intervening in how fuel companies set their own prices?

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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