Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Night with Nigel Lawson

Last night I attended a brilliant event hosted by Total Politics called, “In Conversation with Nigel Lawson”. Now it is not hard to imagine what the format was, the Total Politics’ Editor, Ben Duckworth, interviewing Margaret Thatcher’s Chancellor, Nigel Lawson. If I am honest, I was rather sceptical about how the event would pan out, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was very interesting to hear what it was like at the heart of Thatcher’s government and Lawson has a very good sense of humour.

Margaret Thatcher said she used to marvel at his intellect, and you can tell why just by listening to him for an hour, he has a way of reducing the most difficult topics into ‘man on the street’ language. He recalled his time in government with extraordinary detail; it was rather amusing to hear that he thought he had invented the word Thatcherism during his 1981 speech in Zurich, but was sadly informed some years later that a Marxist magazine had used it describe everything they were against.

He went on to discuss his time as Energy Secretary, and how he helped prepare the country for a miner’s strike. It was particularly revealing to hear that the cabinet were initially hostile to his plans to stockpile coal at the power stations, thinking this would be a provocative act to the unions. However Lawson used the argument that instead of provoking the strike, this would deter strike action, as the unions could see the government was prepared. As you know the rest is history. There was a miners’ strike and Britain won. Lawson paid a special tribute to Joe Gormley, the former NUM President; Lawson had convinced Gormley that the strike would be bad for mineworkers which led to Gormley writing an article in the Daily Express. This led opinion against Arthur Scargill and the Nottinghamshire Miners decided not to go on strike, which would prove decisive in the government’s efforts to end the main strike. On Lawson's advice, Gormley was given a peerage by Margaret Thatcher - the only peerage given to a NUM President by a Prime Minister. How ironic.

Lawson went on to talk about his time as Chancellor, and the proud achievements he has from that period. He mentioned two things in particular; reducing tax and the “Big Bang” in the City of London. Firstly he said that he is a committed believer in the Laffer curve, and that theory was proven during his period in charge of the economy when he reduced the top rate of tax from 60% to 40%, resulting in an increase in tax revenue. It is important to note that Margaret Thatcher was nervous about reducing it to 40%, Lawson said she was more comfortable with the idea of a 50% top rate but Thatcher was persuaded by Lawson in the end.

Questions were then opened up to the floor and inevitably questions about today’s economic situation were raised, ranging from Margot James MP asking about quantitative easing to a question on the banking crisis. He stood firmly by his Big Bang reforms of the 1980s and said the City of London was, and still is, a huge asset to Britain and the economy. A more interesting question was asked about his opinions on the few departmental budgets that have been ringfenced from cuts. Lawson was not happy at the government’s decision to ringfence international aid, calling the 0.7% UN target “absolutely irrelevant” and claimed it was plucked out of the air. He went on to say the reason why we are the only country which will achieve the 0.7% target is because we are the “only country stupid enough” to do it. He then questioned the effectiveness of international aid itself, claiming in some cases it actually stopped countries progressing and recommended Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid for further information about that topic.

To learn more about Nigel Lawson’s experience at the heart of the Thatcher government and his opinions on the Coalition government you can buy his new book, Memoirs of a Tory Radical, HERE.

I will leave you with this quote from Nigel Lawson:

“[Thatcherism] is a mixture of free markets, financial discipline, firm control over public expenditure, tax cuts, nationalism, 'Victorian values', privatization and a dash of populism.”


Patrick said...

me thinks that your radio show last night must have been pre-recorded!

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Good story, Grant, but why is Nigel posing with one of the Osmonds?

Span Ows said...

Patrick, this is by Grant Tucker!

Great post Grant and great quote by a great man! Shall buy his book too!

Simon Harley said...

Surely there ought to be a disclaimer pointing out that Biteback is publishing the new edition of the memoirs?

I spoke to Lord Lawson after a dinner last Wednesday; I hope I'm as intelligent and profound as him when I'm seventy-eight!

Will said...

Good article, very interesting.
AAAA++ would read again.

Tapestry said...

Get rid of that Mandelson rubbish. This is the real story of how Britain crawled out of its industrial hole, and started growing.

Shame Lawson wanted to shadow the DM and caused Black Wednesday when the GBP fell out of the ERM. On that point Thatcher was right and he was wrong. But I am sure that part is skimmed over by him in the light of events.

Like a lot of clever men in the Conservative Party, they fell for the European dream. We are now paying the price, and are not yet out of the mess they caused to Britain.

DespairingLiberal said...

So everything was fine with the Big Bang and de-controlling of banks, allowing retail banks to move their taxpayer-defended money into massive speculation. Well done Nigel!

And whilst we're at it, why no mention of Nigel's scientific qualifications that allow him to be such an authority on global warming?

Oh and about those privatisations. Has anyone noticed that the cost of rail travel is now nearly double what it is in most of Europe, where their operators obtain a much lower subsidy per passenger-mile from their taxpayers? And that the underlying reason for that is the structure of the privatisation with ATOC's being feather-bedded and huge guaranteed inflated rental payments to, you've guessed it, the banks(!) for rolling stock.

You couldn't make it up.

Grant Tucker said...


I am sorry but I don't accept your argument, the Big Bang reforms made Britain the financial centre of the world. And have provided Britain with huge amounts of tax revenue, to helpp build schools, employ doctors and nurses and keep police on our streets. The banking crisis was caused by the politicians of the last decade, and a very, very small majority of irresponsible bankers. I will not not demonise a whole industry, because of the mistakes of a few.

Unlike Al Gore of course, who as we all know, is the world's leading expert on meteorological studies. Lawson has never claimed to be an expert, his views are perfectly sensible and rational. He doesn't buy into the whole we are all going to be under water in 50 years unless we do something argument, but he doesn't deny that climate change is happening. He argues that human technology will advance to cope with the problem. You see we humans are rather good under pressure, it was during world war two, when nuclear energy and the computer were invented. I am with Lawson, I have faith in the human race to deal with the problems of climate change, if and when it comes.

I think you need to do a bit more research on Nigel Lawson. He resigned as Chancellor in 1989, and stood down from Parliament in 1992. British Rail was privatised in 1993.

DespairingLiberal said...

It wasn't a small minority Grant. Lehmans were, it is true, the main players, but people should realise that the other big banks enthusiastically joined in. The crash exposed the real sillies like Northern Rock, but it also led to a situation where the taxpayer was pouring money into allegedly "rock solids" and where former mainstays of business capital like Barclays have all but ceased lending. The reality is that they were all up to their necks in it. You can't blame them for that - the big bang and de-seperation and the ridiculously naive "Chinese Walls" allowed them to pick the ball up and run with it - just as the economists behind the Reagan/Thatcher changes had known they would. Yes, it gave us enhanced tax revenues for the last few years, but at what price?

Anonymous said...

Very pleased to hear him speaking out about the UK's harmful foreign aid policy. For more information on the author and book he recommended you can visit Dambisa Moyo's website .

Her YouTube channel explains all of the misguided and harmful effects of foreign aid .

Richard Gadsden said...

One wonders if part of Thatcher's motivation for giving the peerage to Gormley was her ongoing feud with Ted Heath.