13 May 2021, The Tablet

Not the same old Tories

The Queen’s speech


A fundamental turning of the tables in British politics was cemented in place by Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech, when Boris Johnson’s Conservative government put forward a range of policies that could just as well have been offered by Labour. For the opposition, this is both a triumph and a disaster. A triumph because it means the Tories are committing themselves to a range of centre-Left policies of the sort that the rest of Europe would call social democracy. If the policies are good and the cause of social justice is served, what does it matter which party implements them?

Yet this situation is a disaster for Labour’s prospects of electoral recovery, because the Opposition is left with not a lot to say either in Parliament or on the campaigning doorstep. How does it now differentiate itself from its political opponents? It is also a disaster for the Tory right wing, which sees its own party abandoning the free-market dogmas of its recent Thatcherite past. A free-market ginger group has been formed with just 40 Tory MPs as members, 11 per cent of the total. That makes Labour’s cry of “same old Tories” sound somewhat hollow. They are not the same, and that is the intention.

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