What would make matters even worse is if the Chancellor’s heavy hint this week that taxes might have to rise were carried out. The only chance of reviving businesses is if taxes are pegged or even cut, to stimulate and reward risk-taking. Small enterprises such as exemplify the economic character of Essex tend to be strangled by tax and regulation. It is no exaggeration to say that if the 10pm curfew persists through Christmas there will be a bonfire of businesses in Essex and everywhere else that has replicated its success.
The heyday of Mrs Thatcher’s bruiser ended shortly after my profile appeared. It was days after Britain joined the Exchange Rate Mechanism of the European Monetary System as part of a push, driven by pro-European ministers, towards membership of a single currency. The debacle of Black Wednesday, two years later, led to Labour winning seats across Essex in 1997 that had been Conservative since before living memory.
Similarly, Mr Johnson needs to be warned – and his PPS, Alex Burghart, who sits for Brentwood and ONgar is ideally placed to deliver the warning – that to persist with Covid-inspired regulations that suffocate small businesses, particularly in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, will seriously erode his and his party’s popularity wherever in the country risk-taking, hard work and aspiration have created a newly affluent class.
Nor, if those businesses are destroyed, will they be easily rebuilt, or new entrepreneurs encouraged, if personal and corporate and taxation are increased and kept high to pay for the self-inflicted economic wounds that we are currently enduring.
Essex man was an incarnation of the victory of the supply-side argument – that if you cut taxes, you generate more economic activity and therefore more revenue. People who have become used to prosperity and affluence will not easily forgive those who, by over-caution and illiberalism, take it away from them.