Let David Cameron Finish the Job
Across the U.S., Americans are already fixated on a presidential campaign that has 18 more months to go (God help us). But too little attention here is being paid to a national election occurring in eight days that will have profound implications for the global economy.
On May 7, British voters will go to the polls to elect a new government. I rarely endorse national candidates; the last time I did was in 2012, when I expressed my support for Barack Obama. But my longstanding business, civic and philanthropic ties to London, and my concern for the future of the U.K. economy and its importance to world markets, now lead me to make an exception.
Over the past five years, David Cameron’s gutsy decisions and strong leadership have helped the U.K. economy emerge from the global recession in far better shape than the rest of Europe. Now is no time to turn back. I hope British voters will give his Conservative Party the majority it needs to continue strengthening the economy and keep the country on the right track.
Having started a small business and run a large city, I know that leadership requires executives to make difficult and often unpopular decisions. When Cameron moved into 10 Downing Street in 2010, the British economy was still in dire straits. Pressure groups were demanding more spending, and when Cameron adopted a fiscal plan that reduced borrowing, they predicted permanent stagnation. To his great credit, Cameron didn’t cave. And time has shown him to be right.
During his time as prime minister, the U.K. has added more jobs than the rest of Europe combined -- an impressive achievement -- and last year its economy was the fastest growing of any major Western nation. Few predicted such success was possible. Yes, this week's GDP numbers show there is much work to be done -- but it's work that can best be finished by the team that has helped to bring Britain so far.
Cameron has had the courage to stick by his convictions, but he hasn't been a slave to ideology. Public borrowing has fallen substantially since 2010, but less than Cameron originally planned. He trimmed the budget’s sails with great skill, adapting to conditions as they changed and keeping the ship of state moving forward. He and his party -- together with Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats -- have pragmatically balanced the need for fiscal discipline with an appreciation for the needs of citizens: cutting taxes for the poorest, protecting the National Health Service and reforming education.
Cameron also deserves credit for holding the Union together. In last year’s Scottish referendum, the government’s campaign for unity ultimately carried the day and helped prevent what would have been a blunder of historic proportions. A government composed of Labour and Scottish Nationalists -- notwithstanding Labour’s assurances that it will not enter into such a coalition -- would undermine that victory and, potentially, the Union itself.
The Labour Party asserts that it will maintain the current government’s firm fiscal discipline, but its planned tax increases wouldn’t be enough to cover all the new spending that would be required to keep the promises it has been making. Voters (in the U.K., U.S. and pretty much everywhere else, actually) are accustomed to hearing candidates offer something for nothing. I have always believed that we should reward candidates who have the courage to tell voters the truth, and my experience has been that voters respect candidates who do.
Like most voters, I don’t agree with every position Cameron has taken. I’m a strong believer, for instance, that more immigration leads to more economic growth, and that the U.K. -- like the U.S. -- would benefit from more liberal immigration policies. I also share Labour Party leader Ed Miliband’s reservations about a referendum on staying in the European Union, but my hope is that voters will ultimately back Cameron’s plan to keep Britain connected to Europe, just as he helped persuade the Scots to remain part of the United Kingdom.
Having been elected to three terms as mayor of New York, I know that many of my supporters did not agree with all of my decisions. But as one of my predecessors used to say: “If you agree with me on nine out of 12 issues, you should vote for me. If you agree with me on 12 out of 12 issues, you should see a psychiatrist.”
From my frequent visits to the U.K., where my company employs more than 3,000 people and is building a new European headquarters, I know firsthand where the country was before David Cameron came to office, and where it is now. Britain’s progress has been hard won, thanks to hard choices, made in the face of tremendous resistance, that were proved right. It is my hope that voters will reward the leaders who made those decisions.
To contact the editor on this story:
David Shipley at email@example.com