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UK politics

Don’t replace Boris with a Thatcherite

Heathcliff O’Malley/Getty Images

Say what you like about Boris Johnson, but he has at least been pushing Conservatives in the right direction, says Matthew d’Ancona in Tortoise. Margaret Thatcher left office more than three decades ago, yet many Tories still view her low-tax, small-government principles as irreplaceable dogma. Johnson, like Theresa May before him, recognises that we live in a different world now. He is rightly relaxed about government intervention, especially on big infrastructure, the NHS and “levelling up”. That’s anathema to his party’s swelling libertarian faction, who claim the PM has been “captured” by the left, the “deep state”, his wife, or whoever. But the “principal problems of the next decades” – climate change, our ageing population, adapting to automation and AI – simply cannot be addressed with market solutions alone. Suggesting otherwise is “borderline bonkers”.

All of which is why smart Tories should be worried that the favourite to succeed Johnson is Rishi Sunak. The Chancellor “looks new and shiny”, but he is in fact “one of the most old-fashioned members of the Cabinet”. A die-hard fiscal Conservative, he has made clear his displeasure at his boss’s “cavalier love of spending”. He even has a picture of Nigel Lawson, Thatcher’s chancellor, on his desk. Naturally, the libertarians love him. But reviving Thatcher’s outdated political and economic philosophy now would be a “disaster” for both the party and the country.

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