The prime minister must choose between the promises he made to ‘red wall’ voters, Tory orthodoxy and heading into the political unknown
Over the past four decades, Britain has been beset by slowing productivity, soaring inequality, an environmental emergency and repeated financial crises. Coronavirus has thrown into sharp relief existing disparities, and also created new ones. Those in power seem unwilling to deal with a broken system. They shy away from developing the ideas needed for reform. What’s offered is performance rather than policy. In this regard, Boris Johnson’s government excelled: it mouthed the words but didn’t mean any of them.
That is why the leaks suggesting that the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is contemplating a radical and redistributive budget – with taxes raised on the wealthy, big businesses, pensions and motorists – have to be taken with a pound of salt. These proposals would be the right ones to enact and, if Mr Sunak were to implement them, he would be stealing shamelessly from Labour’s 2019 manifesto. The chancellor defied his reputation as a state-shrinking Brexiter and splashed out during the pandemic, saving companies from bankruptcy and many people’s jobs – including his own.