Sunday Blog: February 16 2020

New Cabinet

There is much more to this than a shift of places and faces. For the first time for decades we have a government led by a prime minister, not chaired by one. The cabinet is now made up of people who are signed up to Boris’s vision and understand that their careers depend on the success of that vision, not on jockeying around for advantage or in competitive briefing. And that vision is like no other seen in the Tory party in modern times. For Boris is not just the person who delivered Brexit. Part of the package was Texit. It was kept a big secret, hidden by bluff and fumble with the attention span of a goldfish. All of this was necessary because had anybody realised what he was actually about, the full Tory and Establishment machine would have been organised to stop him.

This blog was fooled for sure, but now accepts that Boris is the most formidable politician in Britain by a country mile. The only other to get even close is Nicola Sturgeon. He has shifted the Tory party so far to the left economically that it will not be able to recognise itself. He has mobilised natural Tory patriotism and given it a nationalist edge. He built a stunning election victory not in the Shires, but in Labour’s English bedrock heartland. He outflanked Labour and Farage. He told his new cabinet yesterday and filmed it to rub home the point, his is the people’s government and will prioritise the people’s business.

That will include the biggest programme of public investment probably since the end of WWII. The hegemony of the Treasury is over. For far too long it has run the economy like a single parent shopping for bargains in a budget supermarket. Everything is underfunded and insufficient.  Our productivity is among the lowest in the industrialised world and our household debt is the highest. Because all attention has been on balancing the budget, there has been a complete failure to recognise the importance of expanding the economy. GDP is now just too small to meet  modern demands at reasonable taxation levels.

The priority is to invest to grow the economy.  That is the legitimate role of the state. To facilitate and drive growth, big growth, as well as to maintain sound money. It is not one or the other, it is both. It can be done. Boris is determined that it will be. Because if not, Brexit will fail, the economy will tank, the Labour heartland will return to the fold and the reign of the World King will be over.

So expect more Huawei style decisions. Incidentally their phones are brilliant. We need the best for our country now. Global Britain means tapping into that world. All of it. So China building the full HS2, all branches, in five years for a good deal less than the current budget is not just idle chatter. It is the people’s future. Blue blooded Tories will just have to get used to it. They have nowhere else to go.

But What of Labour?

Labour has very big problems of which finding a leader is the least of them. The biggest is Scotland. Here it has but one MP. One. Founded as a Scottish party, of its six prime ministers, three have been Scots, although Blair sat for an English constituency. Labour has been the vehicle through which the Scottish people felt themselves to be fully engaged in running the UK. Only three Labour prime ministers have managed to win their own majority, Atlee, Wilson and Blair, for which Scottish seats were the critical bedrock which pushed English gains into winning numbers in the Commons. Corbyn actually did quite well in votes in 2020, and better than Milliband 2015, Brown 2010,  Blair 2001 and 2005,  but crashed to the lowest number of seats since 1935. So it is not just votes, but seats they need.

Proportional representation would help, but first past the post suits Boris so well it is most unlikely they will get it. Labour must regain traction in Scotland and shore up Wales to stand any kind of chance. But the SNP is on a roll and the Union looks threatened, so that will not be easy. So electing a new leader is the easy bit. Whoever wins, there is no room for new splits. The page must be turned and turned for keeps on anti-Semitism. And the half of the parliamentary party whose candidate loses, cannot muck about with the sulks.

The Union.

This is Boris’s biggest challenge, although like a gathering storm, it is not yet upon him. If the economy takes off and Britain becomes the must country with which to do business and all the properly funded public services begin to whizz and hum, he is in with a chance. Why unhook from a  Union just when, after years of stagnation, it suddenly comes alive and takes off?

But if this Tory government relapses into the old ways of lavishing upon the few at the expense of the many, then the people will feel conned and the Union will, among much else, be over.



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