Macron recently observed, “we are living through… what could seem like the end of abundance” In Unherd Aris Roussinos argues that, at a moment of grave national crisis, we require a statesman of historic stature, with the vision.” Under Liz Truss does the Tory Party have a such plan to enable us to survive the current crisis?
For many years our (privatised) utilities have been allowed to under-invest and become too reliant on import to survive the effects of the Ukraine war and climate change. Aris Roussinos argues that the British state’s “inability to provide the most basic of functions — stopping crime; providing adequate healthcare, housing and functioning utilities like energy and water — are now the central plank of political discussion.” He argues that “the reliance on market forces has left the Government increasingly unable to impose order.”
The problem with the Conservative Party
However, Joxley’s recent blog “The Problem with the Conservative Party” questions if the Conservative party is able to see us through this crisis. He refers to “an emptiness at the heart of the current Conservative Party.” Joxley observed that, during the leadership contest, the final two candidates fired out “press releases and half-formed policy proposals, only to wind them back in.” Truss’s references to thirty year old Thatcherism points to a lack of policy ideas, more of an attempt to present an image.
With the Energy crisis Truss has half stolen Labour Party’s proposal for an energy price cap. However, this is jam today as ultimately it will be paid back through taxes, prolonging the cost of living crisis and questioning Truss’s ability to commit to reducing taxes.
Also, there is the Tory failure to tackle the housing crisis. Joxley argued that “there has been no serious attempt to remedy this”. Truss “has prevaricated and developed an obsession with “Soviet style targets”. The problem with targets in the public sector is that they do not work – organisations deliver to the target not the meaningful aim – this turns them into a process-driven activity that do not deliver.
Other concerns include a gradual decline in our energy supply, in particular water and electricity. For electricity Truss has committed to emergency measures including fracking and more oil fields. This is a difficult time for the country as there is no short term relief. The long-term plan needs cross-party support as security through more nuclear power stations will take decades. Joxley fears, “in Britain, the …best time to begin is after three preliminary reports, two judicial reviews and a general election.” This requires leadership from the top to overcome.
On Defence Joxley is positive about Boris Johnson’s commitment to arming Ukraine, however, funding for our own armed forces has been allowed to decline through creative accounting and wasteful procurement and consultancy.
Joxley questions whether the Conservative Party cares about politics. Over the last two elections the Conservative Party has shown it is ruthlessly committed to winning elections. What it lacks is an ideology, whether voters still “understand why or to what end they wield such power.”
Joxley reckons that “at its best, this makes the Party flexible and pragmatic, able to pivot around the issues of the day.” In this crisis we could see the party at its worst, without an understanding of an economic crisis. With a majority of 80 MPs how has the party under Johnson used it to make a difference to people’s lives? Levelling up and immigration show no improvement from before the last election. Policing of crime looks impotent when the data is shared publicly. Even on Brexit there is little positive to celebrate, instead the Northern Ireland protocol problem dominates.
With a British economy that is stagnating and the population is aging, the pressure is on raising taxes or reducing services. Neither is electorally palatable. The risk is to push the problem (debt) to tomorrow. The party focuses on saying things that appeal to the voters who keep returning it – the generally older, wealthier suburban dwellers.
This is a defining period of the risk of instability, or opportunity to build state resilience. With a huge majority the Conservative party had the opportunity to push through difficult policies based on its own ideology. But Boris Johnson failed and our basic needs – energy, shelter, food, and health are all at risk. Roussinos calls for “infrastructure should be built now to secure the lives and prosperity of our descendents.” Does Liz Truss have that level of statecraft required to build a resilient country?