A stake in capital

by Thomas Parkhill

Let's give an oft stated truism in Conservative circles is that you need a stake in capital in order to be a capitalist.

It is often described as the reason a smaller proportion of people under 30 voted for the Conservatives in 2017 than at any previous election. Many have advocated previously regarding house building, particularly in the South East of England as one way of solving this issue, but I think there has to be a wider approach in other areas as well. My pitch for the manifesto – let's get the banks off the government’s balance books and sell shares back to people.

In the 1980s the Conservative government privatisation programs enabled mass share ownership of shares for the first time, epitomised by the “Tell Sid” campaign. British Gas, BT and British Airways were all taken off the governments balance sheet at this time. In fact, more than two million people took part in the BT share offering, which is still the largest share offering to date.

Royal Bank of Scotland (73% owned by the government) and Lloyds, which also includes HBOS (43% owned by the government) are clearly a different proposition to the initial public offerings of British gas and British telecom in that a mass sell-off in the same way could lead to a smaller return for these shares, so I would take a slightly different approach and try to use shares as a way of encouraging saving, particularly at a time when there has been a sustained period of historic low interest rates.

I would use shares in these banks, as an additional benefit for those who save for their future, which would not only top up peoples savings with a potentially larger interest rate, but could potentially enable them to cash in at a later date, perhaps to purchase a home of their own. At the current share prices, RBS is ~£2.10 a share, a bonus of two shares would seem reasonable for every £100 saved. This is much greater than the current interest rate, encourages saving and gives young people a stake in capital. Practically, this could be run in a similar way to the Lifetime ISAs with the share bonus delivered annually.

Not only do I believe this gives the two benefits of encouraging saving and getting expensive businesses off the balance book, but it actually allows the Conservatives to show a different approach to Corbyn’s Labour who want to renationalise, well, pretty much everything. A practical measure to solve a problem and to promote capitalism.

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