We’ve never had it so good? Nonsense, that’s not what a miserable Pom wants to be told

His downfall was to publicly talk about the bright side of British life.

Wanna know why your basic Pom is soon known as a whinging Pom?

Among a myriad of factors, it’s got much to do with a disinclination to look on the bright side of life and to resist being told there is a bright side. Eric Idle, of course, is an honourable exception.

Keeping whinging Poms feeling miserable – and therefore, in an absurd way, keeping them happy – is politically challenging.

Their preference for having much to moan about has just led to the resignation of a bloke called Lord Young, whose gaffe was to echo Sir Harold Macmillan and tell the miserable buggers to cheer up, they have never had it so good.

The Government won’t save much money from the resignation.

Lord Young was an unpaid adviser.

His public service record stretches back over four decades. He has never taken a salary from the time he first joined Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet in 1984. And since being recalled to Government by Mr Cameron, he has been rightly praised for his work on reforming the UK’s overbearing health and safety rules

Paradoxically, he was expected to tell it like it is.

When he was appointed as Cameron’s enterprise tsar (just a few weeks ago) with a remit to cut red tape for small business, the BBC said –

Downing Street says the Conservative peer will carry out a “brutally honest” review of strategies designed to encourage new start-ups.

Mr Cameron said he wanted “nothing less than a wholesale change in attitude” from government towards small business.

The Telegraph tells of the resignation –

Lord Young of Graffham, peer and enterprise adviser to David Cameron, has resigned after coming under fire for claiming most people have “never had it so good”.

The peer reflected on his comments, revealed exclusively in The Daily Telegraph today, and offered his resignation to the Prime Minister.

Mr Cameron accepted his resignation, a spokeswoman said.

His undoing came from telling The Daily Telegraph something about a drop in mortgage rates, which of course is a good thing for those with mortgages.

Lord Young of Graffham, the Prime Minister’s enterprise advisor, had to apologise after telling The Daily Telegraph a drop in mortgage rates “since this so-called recession” had left most people better off.

The Conservative peer has now dismissed his own comments as “both inaccurate and insensitive”.

But lots of people are saying he didn’t get things so wrong, and an outfit called the Institute of Economic Affairs says there is a great deal of truth in what he said.

“It is unsurprising that Lord Young has chosen to apologise for his comments; but he is, in many respects, right,” said Mark Littlewood, director general of the IEA.

It seems that Lord Young, who was Trade and Industry Secretary in Margaret Thatcher’s government, provoked particular ire for describing the expected loss of about 100,000 public sector jobs a year as being within “the margin of error”.

However the IEA agreed with him that in the context of a 30m-strong workforce, the losses are a “tiny minority” – although the think-tank acknowledged the need to “be sensitive” about the issue.

Lord Jones, the former Labour trade minister and ex-chief of the Confederation of British Industry, argued that Lord Young had been partly right.

“It is true that if you went into late 2007, were on a tracker mortgage and you were in a sustainable job, then the next 18 months, you had disposable income and if you forgive the analogy, you had a good recession,” he said.

However he added the caveat that “if you were on short time or if you were out of work and if you were a pensioner or another person relying on your savings, then the last thing in the world you want are low interest rates – you had a very bad recession.”

Harold Macmillan, of course, might not be remembered today if he hadn’t said the Poms had never had it so good.

Mind you, at that time the buggers were doing nicely thank you.

The speech came just after the 1950s boom.

The Telegraph recalls it today –

Harold Macmillan’s famous declaration that “most of our people have never had it so good” came in July 1957 at a time when the country was riding high on the post-war economic boom.

Full employment combined with an unprecedented rise in consumerism meant millions of Britons saw their standard of living rise at that time.

Mr Macmillan, who was speaking at a Tory rally in Bedford six months after becoming the Conservative Prime Minister, painted a rosy picture of the economy, which was benefiting from increased production in major industries such as coal and steel.

Wages, exports and investment were all up and compared to the austerity of the war years, his assessment rang true for many people across the land.

Mr Macmillan told Tory supporters to go around the country and check it out – “…go to the industrial towns, go to the farms and you will see a state of prosperity such as we have never had in my lifetime – nor indeed in the history of this country.”

But Macmillan was worried about how to maintain growth and employment while keeping a lid on prices as the “64,000 dollar question”.

His answer was to increase production while calling for restraint and common sense in wage demands and spending.

Two years after the famous speech, Mr Macmillan led the Tories to a resounding election victory.

But pressures at home and on the international stage soon saw the dream unravel.

In 1961, concerned about the spectre of rising inflation Mr Macmillan imposed a wage freeze, which proved deeply unpopular.

The government was also rocked by its failure to join the EEC and the Prime Minister’s support for African independence.

In 1963 the Profumo affair, in which the Secretary of State for War was forced to resign after his affair with the mistress of a Russian spy was exposed, shattered the government’s reputation.

Mr Macmillan resigned a few months later due to ill health.

One Response to We’ve never had it so good? Nonsense, that’s not what a miserable Pom wants to be told

  1. Richard Stehr says:

    You refer to Harold Macmillan as Sir. I don’t believe he was ever knighted. I recall him saying that he let it be known that he didn’t want to be knighted out of deference to his American mother.

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