Harry Phibbs, CapX

Harry Phibbs


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Past articles by Harry:

The one public spending cut everyone should agree on

There has been much debate recently about when it would be prudent to cut tax. But it’s depressing how often commentators assume that public spending must rise in real terms each year. Even those who demand that the axe should fall tend to concede how difficult and unpopular it would be. Yet not everyone is […] → Read More

The return of Right to Buy should be welcomed – but the details matter

We have a Conservative government, but some of us have spotted that its policies do not always follow Conservative principles. Wider homeownership should be a core part of the Conservative agenda. Of course, it was during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership with the right to buy for council tenants. But the cause was shared by her predecessors […] → Read More

John Bercow is disgraced - but don't forget those who cheered his biased, sneering Speakership

Well, there it is in black and white. An independent report has found that John Bercow was a ‘serial bully’ during his time as Speaker of the House of Commons and ‘a serial liar’ when it came to excusing his own conduct. Bercow has responded to the report with a characteristic lack of contrition. Among […] → Read More

If we really want to level up, Britain must become a 'postcode democracy'

For all its enormous length and vaunting ambition, the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper left some pretty obvious truths unsaid. One of the issues that dare not speak its name is that many of our towns and cities have declined under decades of municipal socialism, during which the environment for enterprise has been grudging if […] → Read More

After North Shropshire, 'listening' is not nearly enough for Boris Johnson

So much for the season of goodwill. The voters of North Shropshire decided that if the Prime Minister was going to spoil their Christmas then they would spoil his. Two years ago the Conservatives won the constituency with a majority of almost 23,000 votes. Yesterday’s by-election resulted in the Liberal Democats’ Helen Morgan gaining the […] → Read More

The by-election dog didn't bark, but a pitiful turnout suggests problems for Boris

The voters of Old Bexley and Sidcup have spoken. Or rather, they have mumbled. Despite being besieged by campaigners including prominent politicians the turnout was only 34%. Being asked to vote in a cold December will have something to do with it, but at the last General Election – also held in December – over […] → Read More

How to beat The Blob

‘It creeps. And leaps and glides and slides across the floor. Right through the door. And all around the wall.’ The Blob was a 1958 American science fiction horror film but the warning in the lyrics could equally apply to British politics – and how interests of the public are continually thwarted by officialdom. The […] → Read More

If he can't cut taxes, Rishi should at least cut the tax code

The tax burden in this country does not just consist of a big chunk of our money being handed over to the state. The misery is increased by the time taken up in making all the calculations. That process is also a significant item of public spending. HMRC’s recent annual accounts show the Revenue has […] → Read More

Even Whitehall doesn't understand how local government finance works

‘Fog everywhere,’ wrote Dickens in Bleak House. ‘Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights.’ Yes, I am […] → Read More

About fracking time! The Government must revisit its shale moratorium

I spotted something was up a week ago. ‘Welcome to British Gas’ said an email in my inbox. ‘Recently PFP Energy stopped trading and Ofgem, the industry regulator, asked us to take over the supply of energy to your home.’ My supply will not be cut off but from now on my tariff will be […] → Read More

Ministers should take the fight to Extinction Rebellion – and not just by stopping their protests

Judging by this week’s coverage, Extinction Rebellion’s ever more outlandish and disruptive demonstrations have certainly had plenty of success with media coverage. But whether the attention they gain for their antics wins converts to their cause is quite another matter. I suspect most find their brand of self-righteous disruption rather off-putting. As the former Downing […] → Read More

On politics and potholes – or why the little things matter a lot

Whenever there’s a by-election the media demands politicians tell us precisely what the result “means”. When the result in question has been a Lib Dem victory, as happened last week in Chesham and Amersham, these attempts to discern significance are especially futile. That is because of the ingenuity of the Lib Dems in positioning themselves […] → Read More

The Tory MPs keeping the free market flame alive

Along with the sunshine and the chance to relax there was another reason to celebrate the Bank Holiday Monday. May 31 was Tax Freedom Day. “In 2021, we worked 150 days just to pay our tax bill,” announced the Adam Smith Institute. “From May 31st onwards, we’re working for ourselves. Tax Freedom Day is now […] → Read More

Top of the cops – the new generation of PCCs shaking up the police force

Amidst the tsunami of elections results that came in after May 6, those for Police and Crime Commissioners got relatively little attention. That is understandable. The role came into existence in 2012 and the impact has been modest. They are an improvement on the talking shops that existed previously, called Police Authorities. But that is […] → Read More

Make the Green Belt green again!

Language has such power in politics. The very name Green Belt makes it hard to oppose. Who could be anti-green, after all? Who could be in favour of ‘urban sprawl’ or ‘concreting over the countryside’? It is entirely natural to favour a distinction between the countryside and our towns and cities. I recall during my […] → Read More

Home schooling is on the rise – and it's not because of the pandemic

For the great majority of children – and their parents – the return to school has been a cause of celebration. Jacob Rees-Mogg spoke of each of his children returning “with a spring in their step and their hat at a jaunty angle – except we don’t seem to have school hats or caps anymore”. […] → Read More

The UK's vaccine rollout has confounded the Covid pessimists

Making pessimistic predictions is very much a one-way street. It’s easy to attract the attention of listeners who nod with concern, impressed at your wisdom and sophistication. If vindicated you can remind everyone how right you were, and if things turn out alright, no one will be all that bothered. By contrast, the best an … → Read More

Who should Britain gives its spare vaccines?

Hubris is a terrible thing. Even contemplating what we might do with any supplies of surplus vaccines we might have once we in the UK have all had our jabs seem like tempting fate. We certainly don’t know when that point will arrive. Those of us who impatiently wait for 4pm for the “daily update” … → Read More

In practice and in principle, there is no good reason to delay May's local elections

Is democracy ‘essential’? Or is it one of those luxuries which can be indulged under normal circumstances but that should be dispensed with during a period of crisis? The view of the town hall bureaucrats would seem to be that local elections, scheduled for May 6, are be a tiresome distraction. A survey by the … → Read More

Levellers up vs libertarians is a false divide

Politics this year will be defined, according to The Times‘s Rachel Sylvester, by an internal battle between Tories “who want to remove the dead hand of the state, and the Levelling Up brigade, who want to extend the power of government”. To test that claim it’s worth looking back at how the party’s ideology has … → Read More