Recent reports that Liz Truss is considering scrapping the so-called anti-obesity measures (taxes and bans of buy-one-get-one-free on junk food) signal, I hope, a welcome break from the past. They also highlight just how far the state had encroached into our private lives.
Successive Conservative governments had taken the nanny state created by Blair and elevated it to wet nurse status. It seems there was not a problem they felt they could not address. Blair started the process by legislating on how ladders could be safely climbed.
Under the Conservatives, legislation was passed literally to micromanage what we could eat, the price we must pay for indulging, whom we could meet, when and where we could meet them, including forcibly locking us up at home.
Out of the window went the self-assessment and management of risk. We were locked into a collective. Government knew best and it would dictate to us. There was more than just a hint of totalitarian communism about the situation.
As dull as some may have found the incessant debate over tax between Truss and Sunak, the issue was and is vital. For only with high taxes can the state successfully manage us. It needs the cash to wisely decide on our behalf how to spend it.
Cutting taxes is not just about making an economic impact. It is about stripping power away from the state and putting it back in the hands of the people. We then get to decide what to do with what is rightfully ours.
On the same side of high taxes is high regulation. It is through laws and regulations that government directs us. So, if we are to wean ourselves off the state, these too must be rolled back.
This may be the more difficult of the tasks before Truss. It is not always obvious which laws and regulations are best to pare back. The job requires time and resolve. I say resolve because government, like any organism, is reluctant to give up control. Vested interests in our various institutions, most notably the civil service, resist change. With every deregulation comes a reduction in their power.
There has been a propensity for ministers to blame the civil service for lack of progress. Much better that they instead sort out the service and ensure promises made to the electorate are delivered.
There is also undoubtedly a massive pick up in the quality of life to be achieved via lower taxes and regulations. The state is not good at running things. It is the private sector which does that well.
Every Conservative prime minister thus far this century has presided over anaemic economic growth because they have tried to deliver it through the state. They will repeatedly fail until they kick the habit. It is not Thatcherite to rely on the private sector to drive economic growth – it is common sense.
The government must trust us to manage our own affairs and to spend our own money. We will be the more prosperous and happier for it. Scrapping the ‘junk food’ regulations would signal a determined step in the right direction. And if Truss then follows through on the rest, she would be all the more likely to win the Conservatives a record fifth term in office.