I am currently stricken with COVID and haven't the energy to keep bang up to date with the latest developments, but understand the number of contenders for the Tory leadership is now in double figures.
Rishi Sunak is currently the "bookies' favourite." He's certainly a very personable chap and could easily win, just as Mr Johnson did, by displaying a personality that appears attractive to Tory MPs and party members. But, although Mr Sunak's character is probably not as flawed as Johnson's (a difficult man to beat on this rating) his performance in office as Chancellor was very weak. He raised taxes to pay for social care, which was honest and necessary, but the tax he chose, National Insurance, was about the worst possible, in that it is both a tax on employment (a "good" which we want to encourage) ant takes demand out of the circular flow at a time when we want to encourage it.
He is praised for his "furlough scheme" but I believe it was less generous and more short-lived than some continental schemes which were introduced earlier and lasted longer. Its administration was subject to significant fraud, dwarfed only by the fraud surrounding his £47bn "Bounce Back Loans" scheme, much of which went to non-existent "business." An his "eat out to help out" was a silly subsidy to those who were able to afford to eat out anyway, which probably helped to spread the virus.
Be that as it may, the competition seems to centre round which of the contestants can make the most credible offer on tax cuts.
Are they mad?
Did they not live through the pandemic.(some of us are still living through it, with perhaps more to follow).
What has happened to the increased realisation the pandemic engendered that we really are "all in this together," that we need to care for, help and take responsibility for each other, and that the state is the instrument best equipped to administer that care.
It is significant that the one success for which the government can legitimately boast in the pandemic, the vaccine distribution, was carried out by the public sector state-funded NHS. The bungles, the £37bn spent on the ineffective Test and Trace system , the belated purchasing of personal protective equipment, to name but two , were all the responsibility of the private sector.
In our society, still one of the richest in the world, one fifth of our people exist in poverty. Even before the predicted inflation reaches its zenith, many families are unable to cope with essential expenses for housing , energy, warmth (though today that is on free offer) and food.. At the same time four fifths of us, including me, are materially living the life of Riley, taking former luxuries for granted, with not a financial care in the world, and the top tenth are receiving, though not necessarily enjoying, incomes beyond eventhe most avaricious dreams. .
This is intolerable.
We need to pay more tax, not less.
The IFS tells us that in Britain the percentage of GDP taken in tax is 33%, below the G7 average of 36%, and way below that in our neighbours Germany (39%) and France (45%)
We need to redistribute our national income and wealth in such a way that no-one (no-one, not even the feckless) falls below a minium civilised level of physical existence, and adequately fund the civilised essentials : our health service, our care service, legal service, education and our local government services.
We desperately need some politicians with the courage to tell us this. (Are you listening, Sir Keir and Sir Ed?)
The chosen tax increases should be those which least affect affect current economic activity, which we want to encourage. There are plenty options: inheritance taxes, capital gains, profits, land, financial transactions, to name just some
Do not be deceived by the convenient idea that cuts in taxes will somehow generate enterprise and growth, which will obviate the need for the comfortable to pay just a little bit more. That is a nonsense, described in a Guardian leader (11/07/22) as " an elaborate ruse to benefit the rich."*
Yet that is the comfortable myth the Tory contenders are trying to sell, and I suspect it will go down well with their well-heeled MPs and members.
For the record, at present I'd go for Tom Tugendhat as the nearest to what's left of the "One Nation" tradition.
But it won't much matter if the progressive parties have the courage to grasp the nettle of what we stand for and proclaim it loudly and clearly.