‘We have never had it so good’

Harold Macmillan ANL-150203-093523001
Harold Macmillan ANL-150203-093523001
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Confidence matters. All of us know it can be the key to success in life, whether it’s starting a new job or a new relationship!

Building confidence lies at the very heart of governing too. Not just in business, or in the markets, though that too is essential, but more generally, confidence that tomorrow will be better than today. What the statesman Rab Butler called ‘the art of the possible’.

Harold Macmillan, Butler’s great political rival, led one of the most economically successful Governments in modern British history. Back in 1957 he famously declared that ‘we have never had it so good’, though the comedian Tony Hancock retorted that he often had.

In the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis of 2007-8, confidence in Britain plummeted. The crisis exposed the hollowness of the claim that boom and bust had ended, built – as it was – on borrowing. That Blair and Brown had been so reckless with the nation’s finances brought us to the brink of believing that nothing could be done to make things better.

The mission of this Government has been to restore confidence in our nation’s future. We are now beginning to see the fruits of these labours. It is because we have taken responsibility for balancing the books that mortgage rates remain low, helping families to pay their bills.

With wages going up and inflation the lowest it’s been in modern times, as essentials such as food and petrol become cheaper, people are better off. By taking control of public spending the government has been able to cancel tax rises in fuel duty planned by the previous government. As a result, petrol is 20p a litre cheaper than it would have been, saving the typical family £570 a year.

That matters most in a rural area like ours where for many a car is essential, not a luxury. And it helps our local businesses too.

With this very welcome news on the economy, the Prime Minister was able to echo Macmillan’s famous words, telling the Chamber of Commerce that British businesses have not experienced conditions “this good for a long time”. Confidence is returning, but we must neither take it for granted nor change course.