For the new Prime Minister to say she is going to run a conservative government she is living a pipe dream. Thatcher tried to run a conservative government from ’79 to ’90 but kept finding herself being pushed into a kind of statism; always having to expand the basis of government intervention into the lives of the poorest. Not intentionally and willingly and constructively.
But if you strip a country of its industrial base before replacing it with something new and shiny, and that industrial base has been kept alive by government support, then you’re going to have to up social security, put more money into hospitals, prisons and schools, and get knee-deep into social control.
Which is exactly what Thatcher did, growing areas of the UK that looked as if they had been blighted by alien life forces. Social clubs, libraries, shops and factories closed down – towering monuments to previous vast activity reduced to rubble. And then having to underwrite this with the people’s taxes. Not very conservative?
Being a constant mover about, I saw the prosperous ruined with my own eyes and at times lived among communities that, after Thatcher, had lost it all. But the state still had to cough up and support those thrown aside.
Come forward 40 or so years, and we have passed through the covidisation of government and its departments, and the deep need for collective actions and responses. Communities now need to be kept together or the failure will be catastrophically ruinous to health, school, work and social support.
The Ukraine war has brought us back to the Second World War and the socialisation of production and need. We are at war whether we like it or not, because Ukraine has brought our usual supply lines into question. We have entered a kind of war economy, so talking about running a conservative economy is window dressing. This government is going to have to intervene in the lives of more people harmed by that war and the increasing inflation, whether they like it or not.