Understanding the Right Wing mind – William Hague

Here is yet another article in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ – I know – people will think I read nothing else!

Which is probably why I chose – just in case – to add this piece to our series on understanding the Right Wing mind.

If Johnson is the after-dinner speaker as Prime Minister, then I surmise Hague is the after-dinner speaker you might actually want to listen to. I suggest he’s a bit less right wing and rather brighter, even if he’s another of our favourite PPE Oxford graduates.

So in this Telegraph article Hague suggests:

It will be a conflict in which the natural supporters of free enterprise as the foundation of human progress, and fiscal responsibility as the bedrock of a confident economy, will suddenly find themselves on the back foot. In Britain, and many other countries, the state has intervened in the lives of families and businesses more than ever before in peacetime. It is only too easy to think that what has happened can become the new normal.

We can all argue with the ‘free enterprise as the foundation of human progress’ , but actually I wouldn’t. What is much more questionable is that he seems under the illusion that this was something that existed before Covid-19 came along to muck it up. And fiscal responsibility and a confident economy seem to have preference over people’s lives. That is certainly an odd concept of responsibility.

Hague continues:

Against this background, Left-wing thinkers will be able to advance more easily an agenda of state intervention, and unaffordable ideas such as a national basic income. Most conveniently of all for them, the magic money tree – that Conservatives have spent years saying does not exist – appears to have been found. If we need a few hundred billion we can conjure it up, or so it must seem. Never mind the awful truth, that one day it will be paid for in higher inflation, a much-devalued currency or crippling taxation. The concept of endless billions whenever we need them is now firmly in the public mind. And if we need taxation, those of a socialist disposition will say, this is the moment to tax wealth, land and corporations. With millions unemployed, how else, they will argue, can higher spending be financed?

At least he recognises that the Magic Money Tree exists – so tacitly admitting that the Conservatives have been lying all along, but really he is saying it shouldn’t be harvested because of the ‘awful truth’ of inflation ‘one day’. It certainly isn’t imminent – so I suggest that the taxation system can be relied upon to look after it ‘one day’. The currency will be much-devalued – no, it won’t when everyone else is doing the same thing – but he’s right – the prospect and realisation of Brexit (of which he was in favour) has already seen to the devaluation of the pound. And then of course we shouldn’t tax wealth although his deputy editor is of a contrary opinion

He concludes by suggesting in effect that the market must be allowed its ‘animal spirits’ to get us out of the mess and that Conservatives are ‘champions of a free and enterprising society’, based on ‘sound money’.

In mentioning a free society he doesn’t mention who exactly it should be free for, or from. I expect he thinks Telegraph readers will know. And yet the idea of ‘sound money’ seems to revolve around not using it. This may be second nature to a Yorkshireman, but Hague seems to have forgotten that government owns the bank that creates it. Mentally he still thinks he’s working in his parents’ soft drink business.

The soundness of money should really be so that we can use it for human welfare, not to fulfill some imaginary rule to indicate its value. In the end ‘sound money’ forgets the purpose of money and of course the purpose of tax.

William Hague, has, it seems to me, failed both in human and monetary understanding.

In the end the article is rather surprisingly shallow – I had thought better of him – or perhaps he’s just talking down to his readers?

I do hope his after-dinner speaking is of a better standard, though I’m pretty certain it is much better than Boris Johnson’s.


  1. Graham -

    Nicely put, Peter. The right are scenting danger in the air. If the government can find money to get us through this unprecedented crisis, just as they found money to pay the bankers to tidy up the mess they created a few years ago, and the people notice that the sky doesn’t fall in and that much of the present crisis is due to an incompetent dilettante shower of “yes people” in charge, then maybe voters will demand change.

    So the right are mobilising. The wealthy are getting their useful idiots in the media and parliament and think tanks and elsewhere to repeat the mantra “how will we pay for it?”

    Just last weekend in the FT an ex-Citi banker, turned visiting “professor” was explaining how we would pay for it. And after dismissing MMT as a “wonderland”, with no more analysis than that, he came down on the side of, you’ll never guess, the tried and tested medicine of tax rises and public spending cuts.

    I think we can expect much more of the same, just in case people start to get silly ideas into their little heads: that actually, the country’s economy is not like a “soft drinks business”.

  2. brian faux -

    It always strikes me as odd that Tories can hold two conflicting ideas at once: that free competition is the best way to organise our economy and that we should be free to spend money in anyway we please. Neither of these viewpoints is necessarily wrong but as they are mutually incompatable they cannot BOTH be right.
    However, logic is not something that many people use as a jumping off point for their political opinions.

    1. Peter May -

      Thanks for the interesting link.

  3. david spence -

    It seems the need to retain the gold standard for currency has not disappeared. It has simply been transformed into the need for “sound money”.

    All the lessons Keynes distilled for us from the events of the 1930’s are as nothing.

  4. John Higson -

    A major reason why I like this blog, and regularly refer friends to it, is how it lifts the discourse to a higher level. Another reason is that Mr. May reads The Telegraph so that I don’t have to.
    This is a typically generous and fair examination of the right wing mind but I think it misses quite an important element. This part was summed up in a comment posted on a blog which, like PP, deals in evidence and informed analysis. The person wrote: ‘Tories are just evil bastards, plain and simple’.
    There are ‘Tories’ all over the world demonstrating just that all day, every day and, as a person completely unqualified to give an opinion, I attribute their behaviour to some form of mental illness.

    1. Peter May -

      I think a lack of empathy and, in spite of their usually expensive education, lack of deep thought are the problems. They’re content to drive the flash limo without any concern as to how they came by it or how it works.
      (Oh and if I have to read too much more of the Telegraph I might need sick leave for trauma 🙂 )

  5. Bill Hughes -

    There does seem to be a conflict in the minds if true right wingers who believe in “free enterprise”, “free markets” “small governmnent” and the acceptance of heirarchy in organisations and enormous wealth heirarchy within societies. As has been pointed out their ideology does not match the real world that exist now or could be aspired to. The development of huge conglomerates, transnational companies, monopolies, oligopolies etc it was inevitable that with the industrialisation/capitalism there would be increasing division of labour and the need for complex organsiation and increasing energyand resource use. There is a delusion that the UK with less than 1% of the global population can leave the EU and “compete” in the world market that is dominated by the other 99% of US, Chinese and EU economic super powers.

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