The Bank of America estimated last week that, if a Labour-led coalition takes over in May, our economic growth will screech to a halt and foreign investors will lose confidence.
“In a nutshell,” the report concluded, “the UK would look increasingly like France.”
Now, considering that France’s growth rate is one-fifth of ours and her unemployment is twice as high, the report paints a bleak picture indeed. One would think that becoming like France is the last thing Britain would want to do.
Not so, according to Labour’s leadership material Chuka Umunna, shadow business secretary.
Rather than assuring the electorate that the Bank of America is in the employ of the Tory party, the CIA or possibly MI6 and therefore wide of the mark, the chap with the unlikely name endorses the report enthusiastically.
We’d be happy for Britain’s economy to be just like France’s, he says. In fact, that’s our goal.
One’s first reaction is to express heartfelt concern for the mental health of Chuka and his superiors, notably Ed Miliband. True, after Hollande’s victory in 2012 Ed did say that he was in agreement with François’s economic ideas.
But that was before those ideas were acted on – before France suffered what only hopeless Francophiles or else witless socialists would fail to describe as an economic disaster. Surely by now Ed and Chuka must have realised that Hollande’s ideas pave the way to economic hell?
Not at all, says Chuka. We want Britain to be just like France because French workers are 20 per cent more productive.
“It takes on average a British worker to Friday to do what equivalent workers in France will complete by the end of Thursday afternoon,” he said.
The phrase is muddled: what he means isn’t to Friday, but by the end of Friday. Alas, the thought behind the phrase is even more jumbled.
The thought, not the fact, for Chuka’s statement is factually correct. French workers are indeed more productive.
But from this it would follow that we must import Hollande’s policies only if Chuka could prove three things:
First, that France’s higher productivity is thanks to Hollande’s measures and the economic philosophy on which they are based. Second, that by adopting such policies we would bring our productivity up to France’s level. Third, that in the process we wouldn’t also import high unemployment and zero growth.
Chuka can’t prove any of these three things because none of them is true. Nor will he be able, or rather willing, to answer this simple question:
If France’s population is roughly the same as ours, and her productivity is 20 per cent higher than ours, how come her GDP is slightly smaller?
To make arithmetic sense of this disparity we have to assume that the French are putting in 20 per cent fewer man/hours. That’s exactly the case. In fact, France’s labour force spends almost 25 per cent less time at work.
And why is that? Now that question will tear so many holes in Chuka’s intellectual trousers that his modesty will no longer be protected.
For it can be answered in one word: socialism.
To break it down a bit, that voluminous concept in this case includes restrictive labour laws, the state owning 60 per cent of the economy, a punitive taxation system that’s especially extortionist towards wealth producers, unsupportable social costs, the 35-hour week, high unemployment (only 40 per cent of France’s population are in work), unrestrained union blackmail, the social stigma attached to entrepreneurship.
All these perversions have the same ideological base, and Hollande has honed their cutting edge to razor sharpness. By importing that sort of thing here we wouldn’t become like France. We’d be like Greece.
So why is labour productivity so much higher in France? There are a raft of reasons for this, but the main one is that their workforce, from top to bottom, is better educated than ours.
And why is that? Simple. Because their education system began to be destroyed by socialist egalitarianism later than ours.
This destructive animus came from exactly the same ideology that is so ably represented by Messrs Hollande, Miliband and Umunna. It doesn’t matter that schools turn out functional illiterates unable to hold a decent job. As long as they are equally illiterate across the board, every socialist heart is a-flutter with joy.
School education in France is still better than in Britain, but the gap is narrowing fast. Should Miliband’s friend stay in power for a while longer, French school leavers too will be unable to read, write and add up, doubtless losing their productivity edge as a result.
In other words, France’s productivity is still higher than ours not because of socialism, but in spite of it.
So what measures are Chuka and his jolly friends proposing to improve the literacy of our labour force and consequently its productivity?
Reintroducing grammar schools? Tightening academic standards at comprehensives? Sacking incompetent teachers? Shutting down colleges training incompetent teachers? Disbanding teachers’ unions? Reintroducing streaming?
Nothing of the sort. What they are proposing is more of the same educational calamity triggered off by their fellow socialists back in the 60s.
That, I’m afraid, will mean that France’s higher productivity will remain a pipe dream. What is absolutely guaranteed to become a reality is France’s economic disaster – many times over.
One envies our politicians’ ability to lie even when saying things that are factually correct. The Labour party doesn’t hold exclusive rights to this skill, but they set the standard for all other spivs to follow.