Apart from an ingrained belief that "our sort" are born to rule and thus have the right to rule, and that periods of rule by anyone else are a aberration, the Tory Party are traditionally "policy lite." Polices current at any given time are easily abandoned if the then state of democracy (these days via Focus groups?) signals that their right to rule may be endangered.
The circumstances generated by Brexit and the COVID pandemic have brutally exposed the inadequacies of the beliefs that have dominated the Tories since the Thatcher days, namely:
- the activities of the state in the economy should be as small as possible. Ideally the state should limit itself to defence, foreign policy, domestic law and order (especially in relation to contracts) and the maintenance of a stable currency . . .;
- . . . so that taxation levels will be at the lowest possible level;
- market forces will, left to themselves allocate economic resource to the optimum distribution Hence regulation should be kept to the minimum. If an enterprise is inefficient (possibly because it is producing something the market no longer wants, or is using an outdated technique ) it will go bankrupt and will be replaced by a more efficient and relevant enterprise;
- the private sector is inherently more efficient that the public sector, however well intentioned the latter sector might be. Profit is the ultimate measure of efficiency.
In the campaign to achieve Brexit, an additional principle has been adopted, that of British Exceptionalism: a belief that our history, and particularly victory in two World Wars, demonstrates that we are a very special people and, released from entanglements with others, and especially our neighbours on the continent, our future can be as independent and glorious as was our past (as taught to us in history lessons and emphasised by the popular press.)
Since Brexit and the onset of the pandemic the flaws in these beliefs have been brutally exposed..
Measures to counteract the pandemic, especially the provision of furlough payments to those employed in business ordered to stop operating, are expensive and have to be paid for. Since the Thatcher days the proportion of GDP taken in tax has been squeezed down to 33% and it is not enough. Tax rises are inevitable. Tory apologists will try to argue that this is the result of exceptional, even "unprecedented" circumstances. But what the pandemic has exposed is that our health service already had insufficient spare capacity to deal with it. That is why our number of deaths per million (currently 2 028) is one of the highest in Europe, almost double that of Germany (1 119)
We are in a similar situation regarding gas reserves: these too are among the lowest in Europe, so we shall probably suffer the highest price rises..
Somewhat to the surprise of most of us, we rely on a fertilizer plant to provide enough CO2 to kill the Christmas turkeys and put the fizz in the kids' pop The market has not provided for this either and the government has had to subsidise and American owned fertilizer plant and persuade it to resume operations to remedy this situation. (if you don't understand the connection neither do I. Nor can I see why it should be regarded as a national emergency: let the kids drink water and prolong the active life of the turkeys for another year.)
The government's latest embarrassing turnround, allowing visas for foreign HGV drivers and poultry workers after weeks of saying it wouldn't, is just the latest example of the private sector not having prepared, and that soar-away Global Britain, all alone and capable of anything without the help of anyone, is just a silly fantasy.
Sadly instead of taking the opportunity to kick several balls into this open goal the Labour Party is devoting its conference to a bitter battle over its internal rules.