It seems the Public Relations Prime Minister has put his foot in his mouth – albeit nearly three years ago.
The Guardian has reported that David Cameron is to reiterate his claim that the so-called Norway option for relations with the European Union is not for the UK.
Considering the other things he said about Norway – in a speech to Bloomberg in January 2013 – this seems a very hard position to justify.
“Norway sits on the biggest energy reserves in Europe,” he said. We don’t. We have to buy our energy from foreign countries because the Conservatives closed down our coal mines so we have to buy it from aborad, sold off our energy companies to foreign investors and, most recently, signed a contract allowing China to build and run a nuclear power station here.
It “has a sovereign wealth fund of over €500 billion,” he added. A sovereign wealth fund is a state-owned investment fund, putting money into real or financial assets, and is usually created when a national government has a budgetary surplus and little or no international debt.
The UK doesn’t have a sovereign wealth fund. It has a massive budget deficit and debts totalling £1.5 trillion (and that’s just the headline figure).
Norway is deemed to be the most democratic country in the world. Norwegians enjoy the second-highest GDP per-capita among European countries (after Luxembourg), and the fourth-highest GDP (PPP) per-capita in the world. It ranks as the second-wealthiest country in the world in monetary value, with the largest capital reserve per capita of any nation. Foreign Policy Magazine ranks Norway last in its Failed States Index for 2009, judging it to be the world’s most well-functioning and stable country.
The standard of living in Norway is among the highest in the world.
So why would Cameron be averse to emulating Norway?
Could it be because, economically, Norway is the opposite of everything a Conservative like Cameron holds dear?
Norway runs a mixed economy, a prosperous capitalist welfare state and social democracy country combining free market activity and large state ownership in certain key sectors. UK Conservatives demand that this cannot work and the only way to run a successful economy is to privatise everything (barring the judiciary and the armed forces, if I recall David Cameron’s 2011 Telegraph interview correctly).
Norway has a very low unemployment rate, and nearly one-third of the labour force are employed by the government. Hourly productivity levels, as well as average hourly wages, are among the highest in the world. The country’s egalitarian values have kept the wage difference between the lowest paid worker and the CEO of most companies as much less than in comparable western economies – This Writer’s understanding is that the ratio is something like 1:4.
In the UK, a chief executive may earn many hundreds of times what a zero-hours, minimum-wage worker takes home, and average wages (for working people, not executives) have recently endured their longest period of sustained reduction since the Victorian era. Public sector employment is falling (as is the efficiency of government departments). Despite a much-trumpeted increase in employment levels, productivity in the UK has remained static and taxation income has dropped.
The conclusion is clear. Not only is Norway the antithesis of Cameron’s political philosophy, but it is also practical proof that Cameron’s political philosophy is utter childish drivel that will never work as the basis for running a country.
More to the point, the Norwegian model allows prosperity for all its citizens – and the very thought of that is poison to a Tory like Cameron.
He wants himself and his cronies to enjoy all the pleasures this life can offer – while dealing out all of its agonies to everyone who isn’t in the wealthiest one per cent of the population.
By rejecting the Norwegian model of participation in the European Economic Area (as it is known), Cameron has drawn attention to this.
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