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Why citizens need to vote - the quality of government really matters

Comparing Greece v Poland (1991-2013) and South Korea v Pakistan (1950-2013) shows the dramatic difference sustained good government makes.


Posted 25 March 2015

On 14 March 2015 as Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, I spoke at a fundraising dinner for Jason McCartney, the Member of Parliament for Colne Valley.

I decided to tackle three common myths about politics.

The speech is reproduced below, with the addition of two tables of figures. These numbers were not included in my speech, since conveying detailed numbers when speaking rarely works successfully.

Text of my speech

I have been asked to speak for only about five minutes so I will get straight to the point. If you go round the streets asking people about politics, there three things you hear all the time.

  1. Politicians are only in it for themselves.
  2. It doesn’t matter who runs the country, they are all just as bad as each other. By the way nobody ever says “They are all just as good as each other.”
  3. It makes no difference whether or not you vote or whether or not you join a political party. Ordinary people can do nothing.

All three of these beliefs are very common. All three of them are wrong.

(1) Politicians are only in it for themselves

In some countries, that may be true. In some countries, people who go into politics get rich from the bribes. We can all think of people known as "Mr 5%." I am not going to name anyone.

In Britain, nobody goes into politics to get rich. There really is no money in it. That applies to Ed Miliband and Ed Balls just as much as it applies to David Cameron and George Osborne. I have a lot against the two Ed’s, but I really do believe they want to make Britain a better place. They just don’t know how to do it. They should give up their daft Labour Party policies and learn from the Conservative Party!

(2) It doesn’t matter who runs the country

Let’s start by looking at four countries overseas.

Try comparing how the Greeks have run Greece for the last 25 year with how the Poles have run Poland since the Iron Curtain came down. There is no comparison. Greece is a bankrupt basket case while the Polish economy has just grown and grown. The difference is due entirely to bad government in Greece and good government in Poland. In Poland they had governments willing to take the tough decisions needed after the end of communism.

Let me give you an example that matters to me personally because it affects hundreds of relatives. I was born in Pakistan in 1950. That was the year the Korean War broke out. Before the war, South Korea and Pakistan had roughly the same level of income per person. Then the war totally wrecked most of South Korea. 64 years later look at how rich South Korea is, and how poor Pakistan is. The difference is due entirely to good government in South Korea and bad government in Pakistan.

Now let’s look at Britain. In 1997 when the Labour Party came to power, they inherited a booming economy from the Conservative Party. For three years they stuck to the Conservative Party’s spending plans, and everything went basically OK. After that, Gordon Brown, the Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer before he became Prime Minister, started to spend more and more. At first things seemed to be going OK. Then when the global financial crisis hit, Britain suffered worse than most countries because Labour had been overspending so much.

Let me give you just two recent positive examples of what a Conservative led government can do.

(3) It makes no difference what ordinary people do

In 2010 Jason McCartney took this seat away from Labour with a majority of 4,837 with the Liberal Democrats coming second. That majority means that if 2,419 of Jason’s voters had voted Liberal Democrat instead, Jason would not be in the House of Commons.

The electorate is not some kind of separate thing, it is lots of individual people making up their own minds. If you don’t vote for politicians, they don’t win.

So what can each of us do?

The first thing is to make sure that you are on the electoral roll. It sound’s obvious, but if you are not, you cannot vote in the general election. If you are not sure, ring the electoral registration department at the council offices. For Kirklees Metropolitan Council that is 01484 222 400.

Secondly, apart from voting for Jason on Election Day, you need to help him in advance. There are lots of ways:

I will be up all night after the general election on 7 May watching the results coming in. I have been doing that since I was fourteen years old. I want that day to dawn with a majority Conservative Government. Making that happen is the responsibility of every person in this room.

Numbers for the four countries

Greece and Poland

The table below compares Greece and Poland from 1991 to 2013.

GNI per capita, PPP (current international $) 1991 2013 Compound annual growth rate
Greece 14,370 25,700 2.7%
Poland 5,600 22,790 6.6%
Greece / Poland ratio of incomes 2.6 1.1  

The above GNI (Gross National Income) PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) per capita numbers for Greece and Poland, 1991 and 2013, are from the World Bank "World Development Indicators" website. The website allows you to select countries, time periods and data series. Accordingly the data is comparable between Greece and Poland, and comparable between 1991 and 2013.

The compound annual growth rates have been calculated by me, as have the ratios of Greece to Poland. In 1991 Greeks had 2.6 times the income per head of Poles. By 2013 the ratio had shrunk to 1.1. The reason is that Poland has grown dramatically faster than Greece over a sustained period of 22 years.

South Korea and Pakistan

The table below compares South Korea and Pakistan from 1950 to 2013, a period of 63 years.

  GDP per capita, Nationmaster, $ GDP PPP per capita IMF $ Compound annual growth rate
South Korea 876 33,791 6.0%
Pakistan 650 4,574 3.1%
South Korea / Pakistan income ratio 1.3



In this case it is harder to find data that is comparable over time.

The 1950 figures for both countries, of GDP per capita, are taken from the Nationmaster website. As it is the same source for both, the 1950 figures should be comparable between the two countries.

The 2013 figures for both countries, of GDP PPP per capita originate from the IMF (International Monetary Fund) as reproduced on Wikipedia. It is the left hand column on the page. Again as the same source is used for both countries, the 2013 figures should be comparable between the two countries.

The 1950 data is not comparable with the 2013 data. Accordingly, while I have computed annual growth rates, the growth rates are not necessarily true growth rates for these economies. However the calculations do reliably show the marked difference between the two countries performances, since any differences between the way the 1950 data and the 2013 data is calculated should affect both countries more or less equally.

The data shows that South Korea has grown dramatically faster than Pakistan over these 63 years, 6.0% compared with 3.1%. The result is in 1950 South Koreans had 1.3 times the annual income of Pakistanis, but in 2013 the ratio had become 7.4 times.

The figures for both sets of countries show the massive difference better government makes. Looking at Poland v Greece or South Korea v Pakistan, there is no material difference in natural resources. What makes the difference is how well the economies and political systems of these countries have been managed.


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